A/N, please read: As the story is nearing to an end in one or two chapters, I'm facing a bit of a dilemma in regards to the sequel. I know many of you have probably gotten used to reading the story in shifting first person POV. This is something I haven't given enough thought to when I started, as I never expected to write the story for so long, and I have to admit I'm not satisfied with that decision at present. As I'm working on the sequel and trying to piece everything together, I'm debating which POV to use - either a consistent first person of one of the characters, or third person. If you could take a minute to submit your opinion on the matter, I created a poll. I can't promise that I will write according to the results, but any input will be greatly appreciated. As always, thank you for your readership.

Thank you to VanLichtenstein for the speedy beta work. The delay in posting is completely my own fault.

In previous chapters: Logan attempted to reach out to Delcan in his time of need; things didn't go over smoothly, as Declan insisted on showing Logan more care than he's ever shown for himself.

Chapter 40

Declan's POV

I wake up tense and disoriented, muscles sore from being cramped in such a small space.

Logan is sitting on the edge of the backseat, back turned to me, his long legs extending from the open car door. He's fully clothed, but the thin material of his t-shirt does nothing to hide the expanse of his ribs, the long contour of his spine, and the strained stretch of his shoulders.

"Logan," I call gently, cautiously inching closer.

When he turns to look at me, the expression on his face is haunted—eyes bloodshot and enervated. It makes my stomach flip, but I ignore it and place a kiss on his covered shoulder.

"I can't sleep," he mumbles, so quiet the words are barely audible.

I fit my body snug against his back, wrapping my arms around his waist and burying my face in the crook between his neck and shoulder. His posture becomes stiffer, like he wants to push away, to back off. His fingernails dig into the delicate skin of his wrist. There are already fading, angry red lines along his forearm—thin, shallow scratches.

"Logan," the name slips out as a long sigh, brushing against his ear.

He's on his feet and out of my embrace in the flash of a second.

"I have to get home," he says, eyes frantic and wild, fumbling for the keys in his back pocket.

I get out of the car, ignoring the cold wind that hits my naked chest. I take a determined step toward him, grabbing his wrists and holding them up.

"So you can be alone and self-destruct?" I meet his eyes, expecting him to avert his gaze. Instead, his eyes meet mine, big and scared and begging. Begging me to let him go, to understand, not make him admit it.

He untangles himself from my grip, and I let go easily, watching him unlock the car and slip into the driver's-seat. I sigh and silently pull on my t-shirt and jacket. Once dressed, I get in the passenger-seat. Logan's staring straight ahead, his silence lading the atmosphere with something I can't name. Despair. Exhaustion. Surrender.

All of the above.

There's nothing I can do to stop him—no matter what I say or do. It's up to him. I can only fight with him, not for him.

Logan starts the car, and I don't recall the engine ever being so loud.

The tension hasn't dissipated by the time he parks in front of my house.

"I'm not going to do anything drastic," he says, just as I open the door. Somehow, the statement does nothing to relieve my anxiety. He clearly has a different definition of 'drastic.' I can't be there to watch him 24/7, to stop him from cutting or drinking or any other self-destructive behaviour he feels like partaking in. It's something I'm still struggling to accept. "I just need to be with my mom. Check on her."

It's funny: he wants to fight for his mom just as much as I want to fight for him. We're both learning that you can't make other people treat themselves better; it's ultimately up to them to decide they're worth the fight.

"Yeah," is the only response I can manage; my throat is dry and scratchy, like I've been walking around in the desert dying of thirst. I turn to get out of the car.

"Declan," he croaks, the sound pinning me to the spot. His voice is so utterly wretched, like his vocal cords have been tampered with and the damage is incorrigible. "I'm sorry."

The words hit slickly, sharp and piercing like a bullet, and I close my eyes to withstand the invisible wound.

I'm tired of trying to explain that I don't want his apologies. The only apology he owes is to himself.

"I'm here if you need me," I say through cracked lips.

We both know the statement just flies over his head.

"Are you okay?" Hayley asks when I close the door behind me, forehead wrinkled in concern.

"Yeah," I punctuate the lie with a forced smile, taking off my shoes. "Just a long day," I add, grateful when she doesn't call me out on the fact that it's not even noon.

Hayley's arms wrap around my waist, her head resting against my chest. This time, the resulting smile on my face is genuine.

"Brooke's been by," she says, her arms tightening their hold. "She seemed kind of…urgent. Asked that you give her a call."

"Shit," I scrub a hand over my face, separating from my sister. I fish my cell-phone out of my jeans pocket, turning it on. "Do you know if she's alright?"

"Yeah, I think she's just worried about you," Hayley replies, and her tone conveys that Brook isn't the only one.

The last communication I had with Brooke was a text message letting her know we're on our way to grad. I got so caught up in everything that happened afterwards that it hasn't even occurred to me how much I've been neglecting our friendship. I'm positive Logan hasn't reached out to any of our friends, either; I doubt they have a clue. I wonder if I should call Adam, let him know what's been happening.

"Declan? Are you sure you're okay?" Hayley asks, forcing me to snap out of my reverie.

"Yeah," I insist, "I better give Brooke a call, then."

I press speed-dial and listen to the dialling tone as I take the stairs to my room.

She answers on the fifth ring, just as I'm closing my bedroom door behind me. "You better have one heck of an excuse, Miller."

"I'm sorry," I sigh as I take a seat on the edge of my bed. "I really meant to call before now. I just… I'm really sorry."

There's silence on the other end. Her voice is quiet and concerned when she asks, "Is everything okay?"

I don't even know how to begin answering that question.

"I'm just…" I try, leaning to lie down on my bed and stare at the ceiling. "Tired."

"What happened at grad? You said you were coming."

"We were going to," I say, feeling a headache starting at my temples. "But I just… didn't see a point. I really did mean to call. I'm sorry."

"It's okay. Just don't do it again," she says, tone gentle. "Declan, what's going on, really? You know you can talk to me."

"I know. It's just… not really mine to talk about."

"It's about Logan, isn't it?"

"Yeah, among other things."

"Are you guys alright?"

"Yes and no," I try, before admitting, "I don't know. Nothing I want to talk about. How are you?"

A knock on the door jolts me awake. I don't recall falling asleep.

"Declan?" my mom walks in with a small smile, her tone hushed and apologetic. "Logan's downstairs."

I sit up, the stiff joints in my back making a cracking sound. I rub a hand over my tired eyes and make my way downstairs.

Logan's leaning against the doorway, hands tucked in his jeans pockets, stance stiff and awkward. He doesn't look any closer to rested than he did this morning.

"Can we talk outside?" he asks once I reach him, already retreating into the front porch.

I follow suit, closing the front door behind me. I sit on the stairs leading up to the house.

Logan starts pacing, running a hand through his hair in what I've come to recognize is a nervous gesture. He sighs lengthily, seeming to prepare himself for whatever it is that needs to be said. Something's obviously on his mind, and I wonder how bad it is. If he's had another fight with his mom, or—

"This isn't going to work," he blurts, motioning between us. "I'm sorry."

Silence stretches, long and threatening like a rubber band that's about to snap. I remain frozen in my spot, suddenly acutely aware of the cold cement beneath my legs.

"What?" the word comes out clipped, nothing but a knee-jerk reaction. I don't need clarification; he's made everything so abundantly clear.

"I can't do this anymore," he reiterates with a sigh, scrubbing a hand over his face. The lightening isn't gentle on his bruised face, accentuating the dark-purple blossom on his cheekbone.

"Why not?" I prompt, jaw tense and heavy as it works around the words. I can't bring myself to move.

"Because I can't," is the definitive, succinct answer. He kicks a random rock out of the way, tucks his hands back in his jeans pockets. "I've tried. I'm sorry." He turns around, walking away.

The anger that flares in my chest and chokes at my throat sends me into motion. I vault up, gripping his arm to root him in place before he can take another step.

"Bullshit," I accuse, and he jerks his chin to look me in the eye. "You've not tried a damn thing. You owe me a better reason."

His eyes flash with something I can't recognize and he jerks his arm away, like my touch has been scalding him. "I told you. I just can't do it anymore. What more do you want me to say?"

"The truth," I insist, trying not to be affected by the closed-off expression on his face, the unrelenting set of his jaw. "Don't tell me that you can't. Say it like it is. You don't want to."

"Fine," he snaps, eyes cold and unsympathetic. "I don't want to. Is that what you're waiting to hear, Declan? I don't fucking want to do this anymore."

These are the words I've been dreading for months, and they catalyze such a diverse array of emotions that I feel paralyzed. There are so many statements I want to respond with, so many accusations I want to throw in this face—so many accusations I have the right to throw in his face—and so many irrational hurtful things I want to say. I have to bite the inside of my cheek to keep myself in check, to assure I don't respond to fire with fire.

In the end, there's only one appropriate response.

"Fine," I say with a resigned sigh, taking a step back. He's been fighting me every step of the way, and I'm tired; it's one step forward and five steps back. This whole goddamn relationship is akin to the irresistible force paradox; all we do is cancel each other out. "Fine, Logan. Because you know what? I'm tired of chasing you around. You want out? You want to prove yourself right, assert your own cynicism that everyone leaves and nothing lasts? Fine," I close my eyes, trying to compose myself before adding, "feel free to draw supporting evidence from this failed experiment. But I'm not the one who chose this, Logan."

When I open my eyes again, it's to see Logan's back.


"Adam, Hi," I mange to croak, trying my hardest not to sound as pathetic as I feel.

"Hi Declan," is the friendly response. "What's up?"

"I need you to do me a favour," I admit, pinching the bridge of my nose. I'm not sure how to proceed. Heck, I'm not even sure if I'm doing the right thing by making this call. "I need you to watch out for Logan, okay? I don't…what I mean is… I think he's in need of some support right now, even if he won't outright say it. So, just…" I don't even know what I'm trying to say. I can't ask Adam to accomplish all of the things I've failed so spectacularly at; it's not fair to make him feel like this is on his shoulders. We've all offered our support—will continue offering support—but Logan's the only who can decide he wants to allow it, to accept the help, to get better.

"He broke things off between the two of you, didn't he?" he doesn't sound surprised; his tone is resigned, like he's long since predicted the inevitable conclusion. And really, why would he expect anything else? Logan's done such a superb job at pushing everyone away.

"Yeah," I reply tersely, because I can't afford to think about it, to let it sink in—not right now.

Adam lets out a weary sigh. "What happened?"

I hesitate. "I'm not sure that's for me to say," I start cautiously. I want to give Logan the opportunity to tell his friends on his own terms; at the same time, I need to make sure someone's made aware. "There have been some developments you should probably know about. But you should probably talk to Logan, first. Give him the chance to tell you."

"Alright, I will," he promises. After a short silence he adds, "Declan… for what it's worth, you're a great guy. You've done more than you know."

Yeah, I've done shit fuck.

After I hang up the phone, I sit immobile on my bed, staring at my hands. The last few hours start to sink in, absorbing in my system and potentiating an acute onset of vertigo. Nothing that's happened is surprising—heck, part of me had been expecting it—but nothing has prepared me for what it would feel like. The sense of loss is so thoroughly encompassing I can feel it down to my bones.