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How to Save a Life (One Year Later)

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He started talking to me! The new one!, the text reads, and from the sheer unbridled excitement Clint has to guess the first one to take him up on contact beyond just showing up to talk is probably Steven.

Great, he texts back.

Layla’s in town. Do you think we could come by?

Polite. Definitely Steven.

Sure. By the way, I’m glad they’re listening to you, too.

I know! It really is great! We went on a date! Why am I rhyming? Is tomorrow okay?

Saturday’s open season for this kind of thing.

Clint’s amused, and even his craggy heart is a little charmed, but then he always suspected Steven would be fun in his own way.

****

He can tell immediately when he sees them that Steven’s overjoyed in an uncoordinated way to have control of the body. He’s comfortable enough that he and Layla are holding hands right there at Clint’s door and it’s pretty cute.

“Okay. I’ll say it again,” Clint says. “I’m Clint, and I’m really glad they’re listening to you.”

“I can’t be out like this all the time. I don’t even know what I’m doing.”

“Is that you talking, or one of them? I mean, is that how you actually feel?”

“Sometimes. Life’s a lot. But I like the dates. No, I love them. And nothing’s scared Layla off yet.”

“That’s great. What’s Marc doing?”

“Throwing darts or something. Definitely bored, but he knows I can give more of my attention to Layla right now than he can.”

“Glad you and Marc are on good terms. And Jake?”

“Angry. But at least we’re talking. He’d rather be on a road trip. Do you know how often I’d be driving and just– blip, nonsense, back in bed?”

“Yeah, he’s the stunt driver.”

“I think it makes him feel in control,” Steven says. “Anyway, I wanted to show you– well, maybe whatever this is. Progress, I guess. I feel better. And worse. Sometimes worse.”

“Why worse?”

“Well, it’s like I’m a fragment of a person. I had this whole other life that isn’t–”

“Hey. No. It’s okay. You’ll get there. Don’t freak out, because it might send you back inside.”

“Really?”

“Well, working theory, anyway. I’m not inside there with you. It’s my best guess. You want anything calming or anything?”

“I don’t know. I guess I’ll just–”

“Here,” Layla says, and squeezes his hand.

Clint watches him light up from the inside and let out a breath.

“Don’t sell yourself short,” Layla says. “I know there’s more than one of you now and I’m still with you right now. You’re no less of a person than anyone else is.” She grins. “Besides, I’m a little bit in love with how much you know your stuff.”

Now Steven’s blushing.

“Well. I guess, Clint, we wanted to show you this. We probably still have a long way to go, but we were really struggling a lot before we met you. And I– specifically– owe you a great deal.”

“Nah. Look. I just wanna make this a little bit easier. You don’t owe me. Anyone who was your friend would help you the same way if they could.”

“Well, then, I like being your friend.”