A/N: You may hate me for this, but this is the end, dear readers. Thank you for following Mike's journey. Let me know if you wish me to post the few chapters of the next story up although it's incomplete. The updates won't be as frequent, but I promise if you want more I will write. Thanks to each and every reviewer!

I was almost finished packing the few things Steve had brought from home for me when my Uncle showed up with a social worker. The second I saw them I sank onto the bed, but I was too weak and tired to cry anymore. Steve forced them out into the hall and told me to wait while he called Chris and tried to reason with Ron.
            "I want to go home with you," I begged, shaking. Steve rubbed my back slowly. 
            "I know you do."
            "He can't just...they can't just...take me, right? Don't I have to say it's okay? Doesn't he have to prove you're a bad guardian?"
            "Yeah," Steve said gently. I still wonder where all his patience came from. But then again, what else could he do? It was put up with it or lose me for good. And I guess he had decided that he wanted me around.
            I need you around...
            "Calm down and listen," Steve ordered, but he was still being gentle, "you trying to kill yourself pretty much proves that I can't take care of you."
            "But it wasn't like that!" I nearly shouted. "You begged me not to stay alone, and I thought I'd be fine and..."
            "I know, I know, but Mike, come on, you're not stupid, you understand how it looks."
            "It's my fault, isn't it?" I closed my eyes, tight. The light burned my dry eyes. "You tried so hard and I screwed up."
            Steve put an arm around my shoulders. "Don't look at it that way. Maybe, if this has to happen, it'll be for the best. You'll have stability and a new school and better doctors and..."
            "Stop it!" I shrieked. "I don't want all that! I want to stay with you! You're all I have left, and I can't lose that."
            "I know it's hard..."
            I clung to my older brother. "Steve, you know now," I said softly, "It took me forever to tell you about Daddy, but I did and you don't hate me and...I can't go through that again."
            Steve rubbed my shoulder slowly. "Let me see what I can do," he murmured, detaching himself from me and disappearing out into the hall. I sat on the bed shivering, straining to hear their conversation, but they were too far down the hall and speaking too softly anyway.
            Chris came in after awhile, looking furious and scared and exhausted all at once. "That sonuvabitch," he growled, pacing around my room like a caged tiger. He looked way too much like my father, out for the kill. "He won't even listen to us," he nearly shouted to no one in particular.
            "Calm down," I pleaded. "Please. If he hears you in here sounding mad he'll think you're yelling at me."
            "I could yell at you right now, I'm so damn frustrated. Why in hell did you have to do this? Why can't you just tell us?"
            "I did."
            "Right, you don't like to talk and it wasn't the way we think but God forbid you'd tell us straight..."
            "I told Steve everything," I whispered.
            Chris froze. Everything about him—pacing, emotion, breathing—just stopped. He stared at me. "What?" he finally managed.
            I shivered harder. "There was this awful movie on TV and I...I just lost it. And I wound up telling him about Daddy and...everything."
            "A couple hours ago." He had to have been able to tell: my eyes were all red and puffy, and there were tearstains all over my cheeks.
            "Of course. You wouldn't have said a Goddamned thing to me, right? Don't give me an explanation, or tell me what's going on, or even let me know when you're okay, I don't mean anything, I'm just the awful, mean brother who yells too much and isn't around because I'm working, do you get that? I have to work my Goddamned regular job from nine to five and then I have to go to my fucked job to try to get extra money to try to save you and all the while you're just hanging on Steve and wishing I'd just quit showing up when I did..." he cut himself off and turned around; I noticed him pulling his jacket close. He reminded me of someone, then, small and upset and shivering...
            He reminded me of me.
            "Chris, it's not like that, don't say that. It's just...I don't understand you anymore. You've changed..."
            "I don't understand you!" he cried, turning back around. He was crying

Just like you

"You weren't like this before, don't you remember? We got along fine. I used to take you to play tag with the kids up the street and we'd watch movies and we'd pester Steve into lending us his comic books and then get scared looking at the pictures...and during the whole thing with Mom, we stuck together. And then...everything changed."
            "You left," I murmured. "Steve left and you went off with him. And I was all alone. And then when I came to live with you...you were nice and all, but you expected me to be the same. And I...I didn't trust you."
            Chris turned away again, and I knew that I had hurt him. Really hurt him. But that was the truth.
            "It was my fault," he announced slowly. "And you hate me for that."
            "No," I gasped. "God, no. I really...I don't think it was anyone's fault. I used to. But I know better now."
            He didn't answer. He walked to the window and gazed down silently. "You're not the only one who wanted to die," he mumbled.
            "Don't say that!" I cried, rushing over to him. I tried to touch him, but he pulled away.
            "Things have gotten so...bad. Nothing's going to magically make everything better. I thought getting an extra job would. You know, having more money and everything. But it won't. And now..." he glanced at the door, making sure Steve and my Uncle were out of earshot. "God," he sobbed.

            I reached out, wanting to touch him, wanting to feel warmth again.


There was my father's voice, as always on schedule, blocking me from my brother, from his love, from finally getting away from the nightmare that I was trapped in, escaping the mind that held me prisoner.

"Leave me alone! Shutup!" I screamed, clamping my hands over my ears. They love me, Daddy, they love me anyway, they love me no matter what and you're jealous, you're jealous because you lost them, because they went away and you hurt me and their love couldn't survive that. But I hurt myself, and I hurt them, and they held on to me. They're not letting me go. And no matter how miserable you make me make them, they'll love me. I know that. I am a person too, and I deserve favors and I deserve to eat and to sleep and to feel good and to be happy. And I'm going to be. I'm going to be and when I do I'll make Chris and Steve happy, and then I'll really be whole again, and we'll be a family again, and we'll save each other. You are they one who deserves nothing. And that's what you got.

"Mike?" my older brother asked tentatively. I flung my arms around his waist and hung on tight, no longer afraid of his warmth, knowing that it meant love, not hate.

"I'm sorry, Chris," I whispered into his shirt, "but I'm going to be better now. You'll see. I won't hurt you anymore."

He touched my back slowly, hesitating, afraid I'd pull away, but I just held him tighter, and he slowly slid his arms around me, relaxing, his head resting on mine, his body shaking as he tried to hold in his own tears.

And my father said nothing. But Chris did; and what he said scared me almost as severely.
            "I'm in so much trouble."