A.N: Guys! It's the finale! I am so excited to share this closing chapter to you guys and I hope it satisfies you. As I have mentioned to some of you, this book will have a sequel, and after digging through the sea of notes of ideas I have for it, I will start the outline and get the wheels rolling! Have a blessed day everyone, and I thank you all for your support and love you've shown the story, and I appreciate you all, please enjoy.


Chapter 29: Safe and Sound

In the absence of light, darkness can do many things: It can creep into your life without so much as a peep, it can tear friends and families apart, and if not contained, it will consume and swallow you whole. leaving you surrounded by it, and the creatures that hide away in it's shadows. And it was nothing less than divine providence that Ryder hadn't missed it all together. By the time he did realize what was happening, the damage had already been done.

This disease had infected the thing that he held nearest and dearest to his heart, his pups, the only family he had left. And despite his best efforts to downplay the situation, trying to convince himself that things weren't as bad as they seemed, this week confirmed the sickening gut feeling he had of how wrong he really was. It should never have gotten this far, they shouldn't have ever fallen this far. It would be a very long time before he forgave himself, if at all.

And although the worst was seemingly behind him and his team, Ryder couldn't shake the feeling that it was far from over, life in it of itself is full of darkness, and that wasn't going to change no matter how hard he ignored it. He needed a plan to get ahead of everything while he still could. If he prepared himself and his team, gave them resources, support systems, and safety nets, he believed that this could be avoided in the future. It had to be. This would not happen again. He swore it.

'The pups will just have to understand. It's for their own good. No more surprises.'

With a new found conviction burning within himself, Ryder made quick determined strides out of the bathroom and down the hallway.

'Now to gather the pups.' Pulling out his pup pad, he started the process of rounding everyone up. Each step taken leading closer to his destination only further cemented his vow. To himself and his pups.




Cody jolted awake at the intrusive alarm of his communicator yelling at him. He shot up awkwardly, failing to wake Marshall before doing so, who eventually did wake up, after falling to the ground on his side. Marshall rubbed the sleep out of his eyes and lifted himself off of the floor. It took him a second to remember where he was, who he was with. Breathing in he tried to reorient himself, and was hit with a strong scent lingering around him. All at once everything came flooding back. He looked up to the dog he shared the small room with.

"What time is it?"

Cody was busy smoothing out his uniform and trying to wake himself from the haze his nap had left him in. " 9 a.m, sorry for the rude awakening."

"It's ok." Marshall said, taking a step closer to Cody. "I didn't realize we were in here for so long." Silence fell over them again. Silence until Marshall nervously broke it.

"Heh heh, crazy day huh?"

"It's been a lot, yes it has."

"But"– he took careful steps towards Cody–"It wasn't all bad."

Instantly, the haze left Cody's brain, and he was wide awake. He could feel the room around him heating up. With a nervous laugh Cody replied, " No, it wasn't." His eyes never met Marshall's, his brain working in overdrive as their encounter resurfaced.

Multiple first times had been simultaneously checked off of his mental list of experiences he had yet to, for lack of a better word, experience: Crying on a practical stranger's shoulder, trusting someone enough to let them in, falling asleep with said guy? Now, he had hoped to eventually cross these off at his leisure over time, but not all at once.

Regardless of how it happened, Cody was grateful for it, and the opportunity it presented. His body shook as waves of nerves and excitement flowed through him the more he thought about his question for Marshall. His mouth started to move, beginning to form words before his mind knew what they were.

"Marshall." He began, struggling to maintain consistent eye contact. "Do you want to..be my—"

Another ring of beeps stopped Cody in his tracks, all of the momentum and confidence he had abandoned him.


He rubbed his eyes, frustrated, 'perfect timing'. He reluctantly walked over to the door and slowly opened it, peering out into the hallway, snapping his head side to side. Cody then turned to Marshall.

"Ok, I'll see you later?" He said, his words coming out as a question, a hope. When silence answered him he resorted to looking down to his paws, this was all still so new for him, and his confidence, or more accurately, irrational impulsiveness had yet to return.

"I hope so." Marshall said walking closer to the exit. "But I should go, Ryder will be worried."

His voice cut through Cody's jumbled thoughts. He blinked several times trying to refocus on Marshall and respond but was still having trouble finding his voice. He settled on flashing Marshall a smile and nodding, when no words materialized. He stepped to the side, allowing Marshall to exit before he ventured out of his safe room. The two parted ways, incidentally walking in opposite directions, toward their respective responsibilities.

Marshall was making his way to see the others, ruminating about what Cody wanted to ask him, when his pup-tag lit up.

"Marshall? Where are you buddy?"

"Hey Ryder, I'm on my way back to Chase's room, I just had to clear my head, I got too emotional seeing Chase." He said which wasn't a lie, but not the whole truth by any means.

"I understand pup, just as long as you're ok. And actually, could you meet me in Rocky's room? And don't worry about Chase, he's a tough pup. He'll be just fine."

"Ok Ryder, on my way." Marshall sighed after they disconnected. It was probably for the best that he saw the others and Ryder first, before facing them in the neighboring room, hopefully no longer cuddling, unknowingly rubbing salt in his fresh wounds.

Across the hallway, in a dim-lit room Rocky sat, propped up by pillows. In his bed, that felt more like a podium in a courtroom, than a hospital bed, as his team, the jury, sat scattered in the courtroom. Waiting for Ryder to arrive and give him his final verdict. But he already knew the answer. Guilty, dead to rights.

Nervously he looked around the room at his teammates, minus Chase and Everest, and tried to gage everyone's mood again as they waited for Ryder, having gathered nothing more than assumptions about the team's mood when they surprised him with a visit. Zuma and Rubble were the first ones to enter, glaring at him before they sat down off to the side of the room. Rocky assumed they were upset with him, blamed him for what happened.

Skye entered after the aforementioned pups. He couldn't analyze her though. Instead he kept his eyes glued to his bedsheets. It was impossible to breathe with her in the room. He assumed nothing had changed since their last encounter.

"Look at their faces, how upset you've made them all."

'Marshall doesn't look unhappy.'

Rocky countered trying to reassure himself as Marshall came in and smiled meekly at him.

"Oh, did Ryder call all of you too?" Marshall asked looking around the room.

The other pups, after looking at one another, nodded in agreement. Skye walked up to Marshall leaning closer to him as he sat down on the other side of the room under the window. "Where have you been, are you ok?"

"I was just..getting some air." He said. "It was hard seeing Chase like that." He looked straight ahead, features unreadable to Skye, or his tone.

"It's been a long week for all of us, but we will make it through this, we always do." She said smiling warmly at Marshall.

"Pups." Said Ryder now standing at the entrance of Rocky's room. His eyes gleamed as he looked upon each of them. All of them smiling up to him with wagging tails. Even Rocky looked happy to see him, but that happiness vanished as his owner's smile was replaced with a more grim expression.

"I need to apologize to you all, and don't worry about Chase and Everest, I will be having a separate conversation with them both." He paused sucking in a deep breath, lord knows he would need every bit of composure to get through this.

"These couple of weeks have been a lot for all of us to handle. More importantly, this week has shown me that I don't know as much about you guys as I thought, and I feel like I haven't been paying enough attention to you. You're all growing up so fast and it was my fault for believing that the signs you were showing me were nothing more than growing pains, part of growing up. As you grew, I failed to grow with you." Ryder sighed, running a hand through his hair.

"And when you began showing me warning signs of more serious problems, I failed to do the one thing you really needed, to be understood. Instead of listening and being there for you; I punished you, buried myself in work, and prayed that it would fix itself. And for that I am truly sorry." Another deep breath escaped his lips.

"But when you start hurting yourselves, or eachother." He said, looking at each of them, his eyes lingering on Rocky. " That is something I cannot ignore."

Rocky could see the glimmers of anger behind his eyes, but it was heavily masked with love and genuine concern.

"But instead of punishing you, Rocky, I want to try and understand you and why you lashed out the way you did. I want to help you. That is why, I've made an appointment for you with Dr. Edwards for next week." He paused, giving Rocky the faintest smile, before his determined face returned.

"And as a safety measure, I have actually made appointments for all of you. Each of you will have one mandatory evaluation session; it is up to you and Dr. Edwards whether or not you continue seeking counseling in the future." This sent a wave of nervous murmurs through the room.

"I love you all, and I hope you can understand that you can talk to me about anything. And I want to promise that I will do better. But for whatever reason you may not feel comfortable talking to me about certain things, I am offering this resource to help you in any way that I can. Whatever you choose, as long as you are all happy, that's all that matters to me."

He crouched, kneeling down and spreading his arms wide inviting his pups to surround him, and they did just that. Showering him in a flurry of wet kisses and appreciative yips, safe for Rocky who was still confined to his bed.

After the initial wave of love died down, Ryder got up and approached the bed, his smile was warm, trying to dispel any discomfort or anxiety Rocky might be feeling. Looking deeply into his eyes, Ryder ran a thumb across his pup's cheek, cupping his head in his hands as he spoke in a near whisper.

"You have my forgiveness Rocky... only time will tell if you can earn Chase's back."

"What if you never do? "

"Never forget that I love you, and I'm always going to be here for you, ok?"Ryder continued.

"What if he never loves you the same way again? "

Rocky was close to tears as he silently endured the onslaught of doubts ringing in his ear, and tried to focus on Ryder and his gentle touch against his fur. Focusing on his kind words and the love that they held. His owner believed in him, and he wanted Rocky to get better. That's all that mattered.

'Maybe it wouldn't be such a bad idea to see someone, about all this.'

"And if it doesn't work? Can you be certain it will make things better, what if talking about it will make things more real?"

Rocky couldn't deny the weight of that point, but he was determined to do something, anything about it. "I'll try my best Ryder." He said softly, still trying to protect his voice.

"I know you will." Ryder said, giving him a kiss on the forehead for good measure.

Ryder and his team had been through more than any of them should have ever been exposed to at such a young age, and to see them all so accepting of his new plan was relieving for him to say the least, but now came the hard part, the part that could have prevented some of the damage the team sustained in the past week. If only he'd thought of it then. Walking to the door, he steeled his resolve. There was no going back after this.

"One more thing pups, if any of you are currently in relationships, I require that you inform me. And until I see that you all can handle relationships maturely, I will be prohibiting any PAW Patrol member from entering into relationships without my approval."

He gave his pups a stern glare. Gasps and bewildered stammering filled the room. Ryder quickly left before any of them could corner him. He wanted to avoid that conversation just a little while longer. They had been through enough today.

The conclusion of the nightmarish day finally arrived and after the moon had cycled around the sleeping city of Adventure bay, the sun rose up and a new day began; a clean slate for some, a day to rest fatigued bodies and minds for others. And for one scrubbed cattle dog, it was his last chance to take a leap of faith.

As the clock on the wall hit 8 a.m, Cody was finally done with his shift, but not before doing one last thing. Personally bringing his patients their release forms. Something he didn't usually do for patients when he was off the clock, but for many reasons, he wanted to be the one to see his furry patients off. He kept a professional facade over his face whilst an intensifying internal fight for control ensued between his heart and mind.

Mentally, Cody was nothing but thrilled to be the one to give Chase and Rocky their discharge papers, and see the look on their faces as he told them they could go home. It was as satisfying as it could get for him. The moment of fruition of his hard work and planning was mere paw-steps away. His heart however, was another matter, and had a more convincing argument.

His heart spoke the truth he had turned a deaf ear to. Reminding him of the saddening conclusion of a new found reality that he had barely gotten a taste of. A reality where he didn't feel completely alone in the scary world because of the pup he met. Someone that gave him hope of a brighter future, and served as a reminder of everything that was missing from his present. A genuine friend. Their mere two encounters had shown Cody everything he wanted and needed a friend to be, everything that Marshall was. He couldn't ignore his feelings, or his heart fighting to convince him how he musn't give up something so pure and rare, without a fight.

"Move dog!"

Lunging his front paw out Cody caught himself before he fell. He looked ahead and spotted a male nurse running down the hallway, who never bothered looking back to see Cody's agitated face glaring at him, hoping for an apology that would never come.

He shook his head and moved into Chase's room first. Cody walked closer to the bed as the bittersweet sight of two pups cuddling together welcomed him inside, his thoughts shifting to Marshall, understanding better now why he was so torn when Cody found him yesterday. But there was something about them that made his heart well up. It's voice crying out in joy, drowning out his logical side and reducing it to a whisper. He was certain that he wanted that too. A moment of pure, peaceful, bliss and the comforting feeling of safety that came with it. He assumed as much anyway.

Placing the papers on the table next to the bed, Cody sighed, looking at the sleeping pair one last time. At least one of them still was. Everest's eyes were open, although partially, looking at Cody curiously. She glanced from him, to the papers on the table, and then back to him.

"Release forms. Chase can go home today." Whispered Cody, with a smile that reflected his content about the news.

"That's great!" She yipped before placing a paw over her muzzle, looking down to the snoozing Chase. Mumbling incoherently to himself, he shifted his body slightly and eased effortlessly back into his slumber. Everest nuzzled his head with her snout before speaking again, more quietly. "Thank you." She said.

"My pleasure."

He left them to their morning snoozing and low and behold his next patient was right next door. Still fast asleep under the covers was how Cody found Rocky. Part of him was envious, wanting nothing more than to crawl into his own bed. But for reasons frustratingly unknown to him, he doubted he could ever replicate the sleep he had with Marshall in the on call room. Placing Rocky's release papers on the table, he left as quietly as he had entered, shutting the door behind him with a soft click.

Rocky squinted past the morning rays, feeling his head begin to warm up and his body follow suit. His throat wasn't nearly as sore as it had been. And he even noted to himself that he would try and speak more to test it out. He might not have wanted to try it so early though, as Skye walked, or more accurately, gracefully stumbled into his room.

She seemed like she hadn't slept well. The normal sparkle in her eyes had been replaced by a dull, glazed look that Rocky found particularly unappealing. And if the bags under her eyes weren't a dead give away then nothing else would ever come close. Letting out a yawn, she finally noticed that Rocky was awake and he could have sworn that her eyes brightened up ever so slightly.

"How is your throat today?"

Placing a paw up to his bandaged neck, he let a small smile form across his muzzle. " Good actually, the best it's felt yet." He said softly, failing to meet her gaze.

Skye frowned at his despondency. Yes they had fought, and she wanted him to understand what he did was wrong, but she never wanted him to become miserable over it. So she took it upon herself to remain positive for the both of them and try to lift his spirits. After all, she still cared for him, she was still his girlfriend. Even if Rocky hadn't given her an answer yet. "That's great Baby. You're getting discharged today, the nurse will be by to pick you up soon."

Rocky chanced a look at her. He must have misheard her. Unable to respond, he smiled and nodded, before averting his eyes again. He didn't expect her to still care as much as she seemed to. Rocky had already determined in his mind that they would inevitably break up in the coming weeks, and was mentally preparing himself for it, until this morning, feeling as though it is what he deserved. He certainly did not deserve her.

"Ok." He paused, unsure of how to approach Skye. "Thank you."

Before she could respond, a female nurse came through the doors rolling in a wheelchair, followed by Ryder. With care Rocky was disconnected from the hospital machines and much like a baby, wrapped up in a blanket and placed into the chair. Finally Rocky could go home and properly put this nightmare behind him. This is what he hoped at least, the reality he wished for, as he was rolled out of his room. But just as soon as that thought had reflected through his imagination like a mirror, it shattered into dust, leaving a more sickening and cold image to take its place as he saw Chase in the hallway.

Wrapped up in his own bandages that covered the length of his torso, he remained still and calm in his own chair. His gaze fixed ahead, oblivious to everything around him. Only momentarily looking over to see if Everest was still faithfully by his side. He didn't look disheveled, dismayed or utterly destroyed like Rocky had expected him to be. No.

He looked painfully numb. This was far worse. Rocky could feel the knots in his stomach begin to twist as he was brought closer to Chase. Ryder went ahead of him and crouched down to Chase's level. Whispering to him and placing a hand on his head. It was only after Ryder got up and took his position behind the wheelchair, that Chase noticed Rocky's presence.

The moment of eye contact that they shared was like a small eternity for Rocky. A moment in time that would forever be engraved in his memory. All of the anger and hatred was missing from his face that Rocky expected to be there, and was replaced with apprehension, betrayal, and fresh tears threatening to be released. Chase made no sound, no movements as they remained transfixed on eachother. Before looking away nearly as fast as they had noticed one another.

"Ok guys, everyone ready?" Ryder asked looking around at his pups. They all nodded and gave their best yips they could muster. And just like that they were on their way into the lobby. The only noise that registered to any of them was that of the hospital staff, be it phone calls or talking amongst themselves or with patients, as there was a lack of conversation from the pups. No one seemed to be in a talkative mood, and the general consensus was that everyone just wanted to go home.

Ryder waved goodbye to the receptionist and started wheeling Chase outside followed by a nurse with Rocky, to the PAW Patroler. The team followed their master with drained minds and tired paws. Marshall was bringing up the rear, not fully content on leaving just yet. Something was urging him to stay, something that he couldn't identify but guessed it was instinct, but even that answer didn't satisfy. He was so immersed in figuring out this feeling, that he almost missed a voice calling out to him. Half turning his head he listened closer.


Bursting out of the hospital doors, Cody sprinted towards the stationary dalmation. It took Marshall a moment to recognize Cody apart from a crazy dog that somehow knew his name. Marshall wasn't used to seeing him in street clothes.

"Wait up." Came Cody's voice again as he slowed down to a brisk walking pace, meer feet separated the two.

"Cody?" His own words coming out as a loud whisper. "What are you doing here?" They met as the tail end of his sentence rolled off of his tongue. Cody was out of breath but insisted on continuing.

"Marshall..I have to...you need to hear…"

"Take a breath Cody, I'm not going anywhere." He reassured him. Briefly he checked over his shoulder and to his relief, Ryder was still loading Rocky onto the bus. He turned back to Cody with bated breath and curiosity gleaming in his eyes.

"Marshall, I think you're funny and caring and honestly the closest thing to a friend I have out here. When I was falling apart, you didn't run. You helped me pick up the pieces, and..well I.." He looked down at his paws. His eyes shut tightly as he got the rest out. "I'm not ready to say goodbye."

"Friends don't say goodbye to each other. They say see you later."

"You do want to be friends?"

"Cody, of course I do. We just need to figure out how to stay in contact."

"Funny you should mention that." He said with the biggest smile Marshall had ever seen on him. He reached into the pocket of his red hoodie and pulled something out and held it up for him to see. A black watch with a sleek rectangular screen. Marshall looked intently at the device, and then to Cody with the same confused expression.

"A watch, how will that help?"

" More like a smart watch, it can make and receive calls, send texts —with some difficulty— and even make FaceTime calls. All the nurses are required to wear them so that we can all communicate."

With his jaw now hanging wide open, Marshall gently reached his paw out allowing Cody to strap it to his wrist. Never since Ryder placed his collar and pup-tag around his neck, had he ever experienced something like this. Sure he had received gifts before, but nothing as special as this.

"Now yours is a fresh device, with no other staff members programmed in it. All except…" he paused, pressing his own watch against the screen of Marshall's. Within a second a green light flashed across both screens with a satisfying chime. "Me." Cody said with a smile. "Just say call and then my name and I'll get a ring."

"This is soo cool, Rocky would lose his mind over these!" Marshall laughed, admiring his new accessory. "Thanks Cody." He smiled, before something clicked in his mind. He looked at Cody curiously. "Stealing hospital equipment? Aren't you in enough trouble?"

"It's not technically stealing, we have a surplus of these as it is, and yours is an older model, collecting dust in a storage box. So I'm borrowing from the rich."

"Stealing." Marshall flatly corrected, trying to hide his smile.

"Debatable." Cody deflected. "As I was saying, I'm borrowing from the rich, and giving to the poor."

"Like Robin hood? You're comparing yourself to Robin hood, really?"

"And so what if I am?" Cody said holding his chin up, a mischievous grin spread across his muzzle. Finally Marshall cracked, letting out short giggles thinking of Cody dressed as the famed fox.

"Come on Marshall, let's go home." The voice of his master called. An instinctive urge overwhelmed him to obey, and it took so much strength not to, even for a second.

"Alright I have to go, but call me when you get home alright?"

"Ok, I'll talk to you soon." Cody said, turning to head home himself.

Marshall bounded towards Ryder, warmth spreading through his body as his wagging tail propelled him forward. Once Marshall was seated in the PAW Patroler, he slumped down and sank into his chair, the fatigue of the week finally catching up with him. He prayed that next week would be kinder to him and his team, that he would feel better by the end of it, that everything could go back to some form of normality.

Marshall was half right. In the course of the following week, true to Ryder's word: Skye, Rocky, Rubble, Zuma, and himself all attended their mandatory mental evaluation appointment.

Skye was the first to go in. At first she danced around the real issue by venting her frustrations and insecurities about Rocky and herself. She eventually did open up. Letting the tears and sorrow leave her as well, instead of bottling it up as she always did. It felt good to release them. Her diagnosis was a mild case of Anorexia Nervosa, but she was warned not to underestimate it. Skye was urged to seek further counseling and was given antidepressants to help ease her symptoms and was recommended therapy to help change her perspective on how she critically viewed herself.

Zuma, after sitting in a painful silence for minutes before finally opening up, was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and prescribed medication to ease the tension and panic from consuming him and ruling his life; afterwards he was urged to continue therapy with the facilitie's therapist, and above all to push himself to confront his anxiety instead of letting it control him.

Rubble was the only pup out of the group given a clean bill of health, but he was recommended to start exercising to balance himself out with his insatiable appetite.

Marshall gave Dr. Edwards the easiest time, and after 10 minutes of Marshall spacing out, apologizing, and then getting frustrated with himself only to repeat said cycle. He was diagnosed with an Attention-deficit disorder and prescribed a stimulant, called Adderall, to help him study and focus in general.

Rocky was a textbook Obsessive compulsive disorder patient, and was prescribed an antidepressant, anti-anxiety combination. He, more than anyone else, was strongly advised to continue with a therapist to learn how to manage and combat his symptoms from controlling and influencing his life and actions. He refused.

What's more was after they all went to their appointments, Everest and Chase went in for an appointment of their own, that they failed to mention to Ryder. And after sharing everything that had happened in the last week to , he quickly prescribed both pups antidepressants and advised they attended either couples or individual therapy.

While Marshall's prayer of the week being more productive than the last came to pass, it was painfully clear to him and everyone else, that it would be a long time before everything they had been through, everything they had learned, and everything that had inevitably changed them, would feel normal.

The sky was black. White lights speckled here and there. It marked the first night that Ryder and the pups would all be sleeping at the same place, despite the fact that everyone was paired off in different corners of the lookout; Rubble and Zuma took the living room of the lookout, Rocky and Skye took her pup house. Chase and Everest were somewhere upstairs. Marshall was in his pup-house, unfortunately the only one without a partner, at least a physical one, that is. His watch was already proving to be useful, borrowed or stolen.

As the clock struck 11 p.m, most of the team was already asleep. Everest and Chase were the last pups still awake. Everest was making sure that Chase was comfortable and had everything he needed for the night, while Chase was at the edge of their blow up mattress, washing down the last of his medications with the water Ryder had brought them.

They were set up in the spare bedroom next to Ryder's room, upon his request. If anything were to happen, Ryder insisted that he be within earshot. Chase was happy enough with it, and if it weren't for Everest's company, he would have asked to sleep with him in a heartbeat; a treat all of the pups having had the privilege of doing at least once, be it a nightmare or particularly rough day on patrol. Ryder would have offered it as well, before Everest beat him to it. She had just finished draping the last of their blankets over Chase when Ryder poked his head in.

"You pups all set in here?" He asked for the third time that night. Every instinct was telling him to scoop Chase up into his arms and never let him go again, and he had half a mind to move his stuff into their bedroom and bunk up with them. Having spent one too many nights away from his cherished first pup. Something he never wanted to experience again, if he could help it.

"I think we're ok." Said Everest, going back to tucking Chase in as snuggly as she could without hurting him.

Chase had never personally been one to like being fussed over, feeling like he was burdening whomever it was taking care of him. But these worries vanished once Everest started. Her actions only made him all the more fond of her.

Everest walked a circle around their bed, mumbling to herself. "Lets see, pain medication, check. New medication, Check."

"Sleep medication, check...and, working." Chase yawned resting his head between his paws.

"Right. I think that's everything." She said. Walking over beside Chase, looking down at him lovingly.

"If you don't mind, " Ryder said, gaining their attention. "I'd like to talk with Everest for a second."

Everest looked to Ryder and took a step forward. She stopped. Turning back to Chase. "Do you need anything while I'm gone?" She spoke in a soft motherly tone.

Chase had never seen this side of her before, and he loved it. "Just you." He spoke softly.

Everest giggled. "Ok, I'll be back soon." She said, faltering a moment before heading out of the room with Ryder and into the elevator.

They rode up in silence. Ryder was piecing together how he wanted to speak his mind. Everest was worried what it was he wanted to talk about. So there wasn't much room for small talk. The elevator ding brought both of them back into the present.

"What is it Ryder?" She asked as they walked into the center of the room.

"I..we haven't talked since Chase woke up. And I wanted to make sure we were ok."

"I'm not mad at you anymore. I thought about it. And I overreacted, I was just so scared and confused through all of this. I was looking for someone to blame, and I took it out on you." She sighed sitting down, "But I get it now, you were just trying to do what was best for Chase. That's something that we both want for him." She said giving Ryder a small smile.

"Thank you for understanding Everest. And Chase is actually what I wanted to talk to you about. This whole thing has been the roughest on him, and now more than ever he will need someone by his side to help him through this. Someone to love and care for him the way that I can't. It will be a big responsibility, and I wanted to make sure you were up for this, if you agree."

"There is nothing I wouldn't do for him." Everest said. Ryder went to speak again but she couldn't wait to ask the question stuck in her head since they left the hospital. "Can I stay at the lookout?" She blurted out.

Uncertainty flashed across his face. After a moment of thinking he smiled at her warmly. "As long as Jake is ok with it. I know Chase will be. I'll call him tomorrow. Now, you should get some sleep, pup, it's been a long enough day for all of us." He said patting her on the head.

2:05 am

A loud crack of thunder shook the walls of the Lookout as rain peppered it relentlessly. Chase was up in a flash. Meticulously scanning through the black room for any movement. He found nothing, but his heart refused to rest regardless of his certainty that there was no danger in the room.

'I'm safe.' He repeated this in his head until the words lost their meaning, along with their power.

Another roar of thunder sent shivers down his semi-rigid back and twisted his stomach into knots. He dropped his head back into his paws, squirming in place as intensifying nervous energy built inside, he frantically reached around for Officer Bear hiding somewhere in the dark.

Without warning his muscles tensed, mind on high alert as something soft, warm, gently wrapped around his back.

"Chase." Everest softly said, finally gaining his attention. The initial panic left him as he looked into her eyes, but his body remained rigid, still scanning through the dark.

"It's ok." She murmured gently, coaxing him back down onto the cushy mattress, until he was face to face with her. "Look at me baby, just focus on me." She encouraged him, cupping his cheeks between her paws.

Chase tried to speak, but all that came out were small whines.

"Shhh...You're safe baby." She cooed, pulling him into a hug. "You're safe."

She let out a relieved sigh as Chase relaxed in her arms, the tension in his body melting away and he inched closer to her and hugged her back, softly pressing his forehead against hers, taking in deep controlled breaths. For minutes they remained like this quietly. Only the pitter–patter of rain and the odd thunder strike could be heard, which Chase handled much better, safe in the arms of his husky.

"My brave boy." She whispered like honey.

Everest's words struck a nerve in Chase, one that he was unaware he even had. But that fact didn't stop the tidal wave of powerful emotions from flooding him. He couldn't help but let out small joyous whines as warmth spread through every inch of him, filling him to the brim. Everest watched him carefully, uneasily, prepared to intervene if he broke down, as he was prone to do in the past. She was not, however, ready at all when Chase cupped her head in his paws, and closed the distance between their muzzles, sealing their first kiss, unknowingly starting a blazing fire within the young husky herself.

"Chase?" She gasped, utterly discombobulated. Warm electricity ran through her bones as she tried to gather her brain after his rather forward show of affection."What was that for?"

"I think." His face flushed at the sound of his wobbly voice, emotions beginning to overflow. He took a breath and tried again.

"I think..I'm falling in love with you."

His words had barely left his muzzle, barely had time to hang in the air, when she answered; not with words, but with a kiss of her own that lingered far longer than Chase was brave enough to attempt. They separated sooner than either would have liked. Now it was Chase's turn to be the love drunk pup, staring at her dazed, with the biggest grin stretched across his muzzle.

"I think I am too."

They gazed at each other fixedly, entranced, until they lost all sense of time, completely lost in eachother. Their scents, their eyes, their sweet sweet taste that they longed for. Neither wanted to sleep, but as the ecstacy of their kiss began to fade, they felt themselves crashing, completely drained from the high of the moment, and everything that led up to it. Before Everest completely shut down, and with Chase's cooperation, she carefully rolled him onto his side, facing away from her, and pulled him gently into her chest. Placing her head on top of his, and wrapping her paws around his chest. Wanting to make sure he knew he was safe before she fell asleep.

Safe and sound in her arms he was. And It wasn't long before Chase felt his guard lowering down and his consciousness slipping away, with every inhale of her sweet scent. Just before he fell asleep, he couldn't help but hope and pray that the medication he was given was the answer to all this. That these pills, with Everest's support, could somehow bring him back his long lost happiness.

Chase took one last look into the dark room feeling his eyelids flutter, growing heavier by the second, until they began to close for good. And as Chase fell deeper into a dream-like state, his mind failed to register the glowing red eyes watching him, lurking in the inky black.