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"You don't have to act as though you're superhuman, you know."

I let my hand fall back down to my side as I turned and glared at him. "I thought we were over this."

Jude shrugged, gently unclenching my fist and placing his hand inside my own. "I thought you were over the idea of invincibility. It's all right to be nervous, or scared—"

"I am not scared," I interjected immediately, although it hadn't escaped his notice how my hand had tightened around his and the other was shaking.

His lips curved into a half-smile. "You never are."

I sighed; the anger dissipating like it always did whenever he didn't react to a heated response. Instead, I was left feeling drained, as I stared up at the large door in front of me, behind which my mother had been living since she'd left my house. I was about to see her again, face to face, for the first time in months.

"Thanks… for coming with me," I elaborated reluctantly, gesturing towards the ranch-style house. "But it doesn't—"

"Mean anything," Jude finished, rolling his eyes. "I know." He squeezed my hand in a gesture that said he wasn't offended.

I smirked at him. "Actually, I was going to say that just because I let you come, doesn't mean that I'm nervous. Your hand is the one shaking, not mine."

Jude showed off-white teeth, but to his credit didn't attempt to make a point by releasing my hand – instead he pulled me closer, wrapping his arms around me so that I was pressed against his chest, his chin resting on my head. We stood there in silence for a while, before I sucked in a breath and looked back up at him.

"Just… thank-you," I said, nearly rolling my eyes in embarrassment.

He pulled me closer for a moment before pulling back slightly, looking amused. "Kee. It's fine."

"No, you don't understand," I replied, stepping away agitatedly.

If it hadn't have been for Jude, I wasn't sure how I would have made it through the year. He was there when I needed support, when I needed help to keep things running smoothly, to tell things that I couldn't tell my best friends – he was there whenever I simply needed him.

Even when I was irritated or annoyed with him, he was still there to make sure that I was okay; that I was all right. He had gone from being a slightly familiar stranger to being someone who played a significant part in my life – even if I still wasn't entirely sure what exactly that part was, although I was beginning to get an idea.

I had no idea how to put my thoughts and feelings into words, so I settled for simply stepping back and staring at him intensely, making sure he knew what I was trying to say before I enunciated slowly, "Thank you."

He understood – Jude had always understood, no matter how remote or wordless whatever I'd been trying to get across was; he just knew. I could tell he knew now by the way that his face softened slightly, the taut skin of his scar on the left side of his face becoming looser as he stared at me. After one long, silent moment, Jude soundlessly crossed the two feet between us and took my face into his hands before pressing his lips to mine ardently. He barely gave me time to respond before he pulled away, half-smile teasing his lips.

"So," he said, "d'you think you're ready to press that doorbell yet – or are you too scared?"

I scoffed, though I couldn't quite wipe the smile off my face either. "Whatever." I paused, my hand hovering next to the button as my other hand found its way back into Jude's. "And even if I was, it wouldn't matter because you're here, then, aren't you?"

And although I'd meant it as a jeering joke, there was no mistaking the seriousness in Jude's eyes when he replied. "Yeah," he said. "I am. For as long as you need me."

I nodded back, something within me gaining courage from the hidden declaration – I pressed the bell before I could change my mind, knowing all the while that the second I did, everything would change yet again. And despite all of Jude's warnings, the prospect of that did not fill me with fear. Instead, with my hand firmly entwined with his, I felt a certain sense of infallibility – that as long as I had his support, and my friends' and family's, I could face anything. And that was the best feeling of all.

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A/N: And that's all, folks. Taken me more than a year to get all up, but I did it eventually. And last comments, suggestions or feedback would be greatly appreciated, but otherwise, thanks for sticking with me and reading it. I probably won't be posting my next story for a couple of months, though - exams-that-dictate-your-future tend to be like that. :-)