Hey guys. I'm very sorry that this took so long to get out, especially considering the length. Suffice it to say, I've had a lot of family issues going on and whatnot. Anyway, I hope the ending's not too cheesy or anything. Thank you all so much for your patience, support, and advice.

Chapter 25 - Eamon

It was an odd day. I woke up to Evan hopping onto my bed without concern as to what he landed on–mainly, me.

"I'm giving up the drugs," he announced, staring down at me expectantly.

I yawned and squinted up at him. What time was it? My alarm would have gone off if it was time to get up yet…

"'Kay," I grunted, trying to figure out if I had room to sit up without bumping into the blonde.

"And I'ma fuck Ken."

I blinked, eyebrows raising. "O-kaaay…"

"Not right now," he amended, "but soon enough. Sometime. 'Cause he wants me."

"Is that so." I was so glad it was winter and I was wearing more than just boxers; it was bad enough having Evan on my bed, but geez that would have made it really awkward…

"Yes, it is so. He wants me like Cole wants you. Hmm, never thought you'd be in the same category as me, but eh… Are you awake?"

Before I could respond, Evan was leaning over me, peering at me as if I was a bug. I was almost afraid he would start poking at me.

"Yesss," I hissed, forcibly rolling to my side and nearly sliding out of the bed to get away from Evan.

"Oh, well good. Get movin' so we can get some breakfast."

I straightened and made a face. "When did you get in?"

"Hmm? I dunno, fifteen minutes ago? C'mon, I'm starving. Well, actually, Ken fed me already, but you know, growing boy and all. Come on!"

I stared at him for a moment, unable to process anything going on around me. I was usually good at waking up early, but damn.

I learned a few interesting things over breakfast, such as the fact that Evan hadn't been blowing smoke out his ass; something had definitely changed between he and Ken. It wasn't so easy to tell by their behavior–even Evan wasn't really acting differently–but some aspect of their relationship was different. I wondered if that's how things seemed between Cole and me, from everyone else's eyes. It was disconcerting, imagining everyone else watching us that way, scrutinizing our every move. I didn't know if I was ready for that kind of attention, that kind of responsibility…but when I looked over at Cole, watched him smile at something Evan said, I knew I wasn't going anywhere.

I was pulled from my reverie by Ken.

"Winter break is next week," he said specifically to me. I turned to look at him, surprised.

"Already? Jesus…"

Evan frowned. "Already what?"

"Winter break."

I watched my roommate's mouth tighten. "Oh…"

It was Rhole who cut through the awkwardness.

"So, what're you going to do for break, Eamon?"

I paused, not having even considered options. "Go home, I guess. You?"

"The same. Cole and I always have to go back, even though neither of us is very excited about it."

I nodded, catching the sullen look on Cole's face, recalling what he'd said about how his parents treated him, how short a leash he had.

"They never let you do anything else?" I asked him.

He shook his head. "There's never anything else to do, Eamon. It's…not very exciting, but…"

"But at least you have a home to go to," Evan interjected, stretching.

Ken shot him a look. "You have my home to go to, as always, or Maz's…"

"Oh yeah, like he's gonna be at his tiny apartment when he could be over at Paul's fucking like a rabid monkey."

"Then perhaps he'll let you borrow the apartment for the duration of the break."

Evan shrugged. "Nah…I'm not complaining or anything, you know. Just pointing out a fact; technically, I don't have a home. I'm homeless. But anyway, continue your discussion, go on. Don't mind poor, homeless me…"

I rolled my eyes, as did Rhole and Ken; only Cole was polite enough to refrain from making a face.

I turned my attention to Ken. "What about your plans?"

He considered for a moment, then shrugged. "Given the current situation, I imagine I'll be staying home, as well."

I didn't ask what "current situation" he was talking about, instead just assuming that it had something to do with Evan; it always did. I snuck a glance at Cole, wondering if I was as good a person as Ken. Could I deal with it when Cole got sick again? Would I be able to go visit him in the hospital, or would I freak out and pull away? I thought about it very carefully for the rest of breakfast, but for the life of me, I couldn't answer my own questions.

Putting those thoughts aside for a while, I managed to get Cole away from Rhole's scrutiny at the beginning of lunch, hard as it was. I'm sure none of my excuses were convincing, considering that even Cole raised his eyebrows at them. But the point is that I managed it, taking Cole back to my room.

He sat on the bed hesitantly, obviously concerned about what was up.

"You know my dad and I don't get along well, right? But we've got this big house, and being stuck there by myself all break sucks. Do you, uh…do you think your parents would let you, you know, visit me? If you want to, I mean."

Cole blinked, obviously surprised. "Well…I could ask," he said hesitantly. "They'll probably say no, but I'll try it. They've never let me travel very far though, and never alone."

I was disappointed with his answer, but I had been expecting it. Another Christmas of barely-concealed tension and bitterness, yay. Still, I smiled and tried not to let my mood affect him.

We walked to the lunchroom together, and when we arrived, we found Rhole sitting alone, looking very annoyed.

"Took you long enough," he growled as we sat down with our trays.

I glanced around. "Where's Evan?"

"Off somewhere talking to Aki. What were you guys doing, anyway?" he asked suspiciously, eyeing me like a stinkbug.

"We were discussing the upcoming break," Cole interjected before I could respond.

Rhole didn't look convinced. "Uh huh."

I blushed, but I don't think he saw it, mercifully. I felt Cole's hand on my arm, slender fingers running against my skin reassuringly. I wouldn't get to spend Christmas with him, but that was a small price to pay for his warmth.

Life's not perfect, and it never will be. I may never learn to get along with my father, or even be able to hold a semi-civil conversation with Clarissa. Rhole may never trust me, may always resent me for being so close to Cole. And I may never get over my fear of hospitals, no matter how many times I have to visit one. With any luck, Cole and I will last. If we don't, as unpleasant as it is to think about, I know we'll maintain a close relationship. For now, my biggest worry has to be getting Cole out of his parents' clutches long enough for a brief summer visit. At least I've got some time to work on that.