Author’s Note: Everyone has doubts sometimes. Carson might have more than most.
“You all right?”
“Not really. I don’t know how to sleep after what my brain warped this thing into earlier, and even after all this time, I can’t rid myself of it. I don’t want to close my eyes,” Carson said, letting out a breath and staring at his hands. He shook his head. “I don’t think I should go with you tomorrow.”
Mackenna stared at him. No. Impossible. He didn’t get to back out now. They’d been planning this for a while—all right, it was only about a week, but that didn’t mean that she was giving up and quitting. She wouldn’t. He wasn’t allowed to, either. “What?”
He pulled his legs up against his chest. “I just… I know it’s supposed to help, that we’re chasing down what leads we have, but I don’t think it’s a good idea at all. We’re just… I think what I need to do is what I’ve been avoiding since I got the news about Grandpa. I need to find a new shrink and get on medication. I don’t like the idea, and I hate the meds, but this isn’t working.”
“How can you say that? You’ve gotten more back in the last week than you did in the past twenty years. You are doing just fine, Carson, and you’re going to keep doing that.”
He lowered his head. “I don’t feel fine. I feel like I’m coming apart, and as we were driving back, all I could think about was who might have been lying. Like I can’t trust anyone. I didn’t want to believe that the one man didn’t know if his father had sold someone in my family Phantom. I didn’t believe they’d never met my father. I don’t like what I’m becoming, Mackenna. I need to stop it somehow, and if that’s getting back on anxiety medication, then… I have to do it.”
She let out a breath. She didn’t like the idea of putting him on medication—she’d had her moments thinking that her uncle had committed suicide not in spite of the drugs but because of them—and she really didn’t like the way he was talking right now.
“You still trust people.”
“What? My brothers? You know I don’t. I could, maybe, almost, because they wouldn’t have been that old if Dad did die when I was eight, but I don’t know that for sure, and I still don’t trust them. I don’t trust my former coworkers or my boss, don’t trust the old guys at the Legion, don’t trust my uncle or anyone I knew—”
“What about me?”
His eyes jerked up to hers, and she frowned, afraid he was going to say he didn’t trust her, either, after all she’d done for him and seen him through, and when he did, not only would she be pissed, but she knew it would hurt. It would sting in a way she hadn’t felt in a long time. She’d been so careful about not letting anyone in, and now that she had, he’d hurt her all over again.
“No, I trust you,” he said, his voice so quiet that he should have been talking to his knees and not to her. “You’re all I’ve got, and that scares me.”
She bit her lip. She knew that feeling all too well, and having Carson be a part of her life was only possible because she’d healed after years with Mac, because he was so damaged himself, and if he didn’t need her, she wouldn’t have started down this path with him. The way they’d bonded scared her. She didn’t want to be this close to anyone, either.
“I want to say you’ve got Mac, too, but you don’t, not in the same way.”
Carson nodded. He knew what she meant. “He’s nice enough, and he tolerates me, but I made everyone mad tonight, talking about giving you the car. I thought… I thought you’d want it, and after all that work, you’d deserve it.”
“I thought we agreed on some kind of shared custody,” she said, swallowing. She tried to force herself to be calm. “As long as you’re still going to be my friend when it’s over, it doesn’t matter which of us owns the car, does it? As long as you’re not abandoning me the minute the car is finished—”
“I couldn’t do that.”
“Could you do it if you had your memories back?”
He shook his head. “No. I’ll need you just as much then—how am I going to cope with them without you?”
She shrugged. “Not by going to a shrink and getting back on drugs. That might be something you do as a temporary fix, but it’s not like you have a disease that needs long term care. You just need to cope with the reality of what happened. You can’t, not until your memories are back, but when they are, when you’re free of all you’ve got locked away, you’ll be able to start dealing with it and start healing.”
“I wish I could heal you the way you’re healing me.”
She snorted. “I’m fine. You’re the mess. Oh, I have my moments, I guess, but on the whole, I’m fine. I’ve had a long time to process what happened with my uncle, and while I’ll never forgive my aunt for her poor choices, that time is behind me, too.”
“I don’t think it is,” he told her. “If it was, you’d let someone in besides Mac, someone who isn’t like me and isn’t a wreck. You don’t have anyone that didn’t come into your life because of Mac, and if you’re honest, you’d call them his friends, not yours.”
She closed her eyes, hating him for being right. “Carson…”
“It’s weird and awkward, but I want to hug you again.”
She almost smiled. “That’s funny. For some reason, I want to hug you, too, and I’m not much of a hugger. Why don’t you put your knees down and sit next to me instead? We can kind of… lean against each other, and that’s not so awkward.”
He did, scooting across the couch until he was next to her. “This is better.”
“I still want you to come with us. Will you?”
He let his head rest against hers. “A part of me is convinced I shouldn’t. Still… I seem to have no willpower when it comes to you, so yeah, I’m going with you.”