A/N: Oh my god, guys, the epilogue. THE FINALE! I've probably never worked so hard and so ferociously on anything in my life as I did on this story. I've definitely never written anything so long. Thank you so much for reading and reviewing and just in general being awesome. I've loved hearing your feedback and sharing this with you. Well, don't let me keep you from reading. Bye, guys! And, for the last time, remember to check out CapriChica's awesome illustrations (links on my profile, her DA username is lothlori).
Rhett liked his job. He liked smelling the fresh paper and coffee of the store. He liked looking at the covers of all the new books he could read. He liked his boss, who was old and had a booming laugh and reminded him of what Lewis would have been like if things had gone different.
"Hey, Rhett," said Michelle, his co-worker. "Could you take the info desk for a sec, I've gotta pee."
"Sure." He put down the books he'd been stacking and walked behind the counter.
"Thanks." She hurried off, towards the bathroom.
He stood there, waiting for customers with questions or requests.
He looked around.
Jace was walking up to him, waving and smiling.
"Jace, I've told you not to come here when I'm—"
"I know, I know." Jace put his hands on the desk and leaned in for a kiss, but Rhett pulled away.
"Dude, I'm working!"
Jace nodded, grinning.
"You know, it wasn't too long ago that you would've said, 'Dude, we're in public!' if I'd tried to do that," he said.
He hadn't entirely gotten over his "judgement" fear, but since the day he'd announced his sexuality in front of hundreds of people and nothing bad had happened, he figured maybe it was okay.
"So?" Rhett said. "Did you come here for something?"
"Yeah, I did, actually." Jace reached into his pocket and pulled out two sets of keys, shaking them around. "We fucking got it, dude!"
Rhett raised his eyebrows.
"Yeah!" Jace tossed him one of the keys. He caught it, examined it. It had a tag with the number 215 on it. "Now we've just gotta move in, and we'll legitimately be living together! It's fucking weird!"
Jace had been the one to suggest it. He'd said, since they were both working/college-ing adults now, it didn't make sense for them to be living with their parents. He'd called them roommates, but it was a step.
The money mostly came from Rhett's dad. He'd died in July and bequeathed all his savings to Rhett. Rhett hadn't known how to feel. He hadn't known if he would cry. He had.
Because Jace had insisted, the money was also paying for a psychiatrist and anti-depressants.
Rhett felt better.
He hadn't been sure he wanted them. He'd been afraid of them changing who he was. But so far they hadn't. He was still him. He was just him with less anger and less headaches.
His mom and Carson had gotten married in August. Rhett had gone to the wedding. He hadn't enjoyed it, but he'd gone, and his mom had hugged him at the end and just said, "Thank you."
Alondra was at Stanford. She was planning on medical school. She and Haven were in a long-distance relationship now. When they'd gotten together in mid-summer, Jace had hugged her and kissed her head. She seemed happy.
Tyler was playing football for UCLA. Rhett had been kind of pissed he hadn't mentioned he'd been scouted, but there had been other things going on. Unfortunately, Maria had to stay here to take care of her mom, but Katrina was at the local university and was helping her cope.
To various degrees, Rhett was still in contact with all of them. Katrina had a boyfriend. She said he'd gotten her chocolate for her birthday.
Jace returned his key to his pocket.
"So, meet me tonight and we'll get our shit in there, okay?"
Jace smiled again and, before Rhett could stop him, leaned in and gave him a quick kiss on the cheek.
"Alright, see you then."
Waving once more, Jace walked off back towards the exit.
Rhett watched him go.
"Thanks, Rhett," said a voice from behind him. "Even though you spent the whole time talking to your boyfriend."
"Sorry, Michelle." He stepped aside to let her take up her place again. "But he's not my boyfriend."
She rolled her eyes.
He went back to stacking.
Jace was at the local community college now, taking mostly English classes. He said he liked it. Whenever they met up, he'd talk about Faulkner and Hemingway and other famous "literary" authors (mostly complaining that there was no magic or aliens in their stories). Rhett would listen with a small smile.
He was smiling more now.
Rhett set the last box on the floor.
It wasn't a big space, but it was bigger than the one he'd shared with his mom. It had lots of windows and lots of light.
"Great!" Jace said, brushing his hands off on his jeans. "Everything's in. Now we've just gotta unpack."
"Tomorrow," Rhett said, sliding down against the wall to the floor. He was sweating from the work. He wanted a drink.
Jace sat beside him. He reached for Rhett's hand, and Rhett gave it to him.
"You know it's been a year, today?" Jace said.
"Since?" Rhett asked.
"Since we really met." Jace smiled at him, a small smile. "Since the promise."
"Yeah," Rhett said, rolling his eyes. "Yeah, I've got that marked on my calendar."
He had known. He didn't know how to feel about it.
"I'm glad, smartass," Jace said, bumping their shoulders together. "I think it's a very important date. Feels like...our anniversary or something."
Rhett glanced at him. Anniversary?
"Are we married now?" he said.
"Of course, dude!" he said. "Did you forget our beautiful wedding? It was on a beach at sunset, the cake was a mile high, and you looked stunning in your white gown—ow!"
"I want a divorce," Rhett interrupted, punching Jace on the arm.
Jace laughed. "Not gonna get rid of me that easy. You're one of—" He stopped talking, the mirth leaving his face.
"What?" Rhett asked.
Jace glanced away, then met his eyes.
"Rhett, you're one of the only people I care about who's still around."
Rhett shook his head.
"That's not true," he said. "There's still your parents…."
"Yeah," Jace said. "Them and you, and everyone else's at college or working in different state or…."
He stopped talking, but Rhett knew what his next word was going to be. Because the most important person to him was not at college or in a different state.
Kelly was dead.
"She didn't want you to dwell on her," Rhett said in a quiet voice.
Jace nodded slowly.
"I know," he said. "Thanks."
For so long, Jace had been broken by her death. But Rhett had been there. Every day, he had been there.
"I'm here," he said. "Always."
They were silent for a moment.
"I love you," Jace said.
Rhett didn't register it at first.
"I love you," he repeated. "I'm in love with you."
The words sounded weird coming from his mouth. Like they were in a dream or so deep underwater that all noises were just bubbles.
"No, I'm fucking joking."
Rhett looked at him. He looked into his eyes—those deep, blue eyes. Could this be happening? Could this seriously be happening? He squeezed Jace's hand tighter, held onto it.
"What changed?" he asked. "I didn't do anything—"
"Yes, you did." Jace squeezed his hand back. "You showed me that Molly's gone. You helped me through everything. And you were...you're just you. You're you. I think I've been in love with you for a while and just was too stupid and stubborn to notice."
Rhett couldn't believe this. He'd imagined it, he'd hoped for it, but it had been so long. He'd been afraid it would never happen, that he wasn't good enough or that Jace wasn't ready. Jace hadn't been ready.
But people change. Rhett had.
He took a deep breath.
"I love you, too."
"Yeah, I know."
Rhett smiled, then leaned in and kissed him.
When they broke apart, Rhett asked, "I know you're not happy yet, Jace, but...do you think you're getting there?"
Jace laughed a little.
"I don't know if anyone's really happy," he said. "Not fully. There are always things that'll be sad or piss us off or whatever, but...I think...I think—you know, relatively—I think I already am. Even though most people I love aren't around anymore, I can deal. I still have you. So...I'm happy."
"Good," Rhett said. "Me too."
A/N # Dos: I hope you guys enjoyed. Both the epilogue and the entire story. If you did, know that I'm currently working on a new story. It's probably gonna be as long as this eh heh heh….I'm slowly becoming an over-writer. But, if you want to check it out when I'm done, you know—that would be cool. Anyway, fare thee well, peace on Earth, all that jazz.