Just a little something on Maya and Tiny at uni, except Tiny is apparently not on the character list.
Slight CW for mentions of all the PTSD inducing things these poor kids went through during their run on the show. I've been gentle, though.

Title and lyrics from the John Butler Trio song of the same name.



I came back a little broken
Things don't fit anymore
And I wait for spring to come



Tiny shows up by her dorms on the first weekend of school, and she can't help but grin widely at him.

"What are you doing here, you goof?"

She runs towards his relic of a car he's leaning on and throws her arms around his neck, nearly knocking him off balance.

"I'm so glad to see you! How are you? Is CalTech amazing?"

Tiny laughs at her enthusiasm as he backs off from her choking grip.

"It's… different, for sure," he acknowledges. "How about you? Is SoCalArt treating you well so far?"

She rolls her eyes expressively. "It's been fun! People here are totally nuts. Lectures haven't even started and I already feel like I'm behind…"

"Yeah, I know what you mean." He pauses, a cheeky grin barely hidden, "I suppose your time's too precious for a burger with an old friend, then?"

"Are you kidding? I'm always in for a burger. All these years and you still don't know this about me, Tiny? Now I'm disappointed…"

They keep laughing most of the way there. Tiny drives them to the nearest In-N-Out, and then they drive off with their take-out bags of goodness.

Not really sure where to go, they end up back in the parking lot by Maya's dorms. It's a beautiful evening, a light breeze swishes through the branches above their heads. They sit on the hood of Tiny's car (which is older than both of them, but he keeps it clean enough) and dig into their burgers, chatting away as the sunset slowly fades and is replaced by the first stars of the night.

They're lying contentedly next to each other, their bellies full and a comfortable silence between them, when Maya turns her head towards him.

"He asked you to come, didn't he?"

She doesn't need to specify she's talking about Zig, he knows. Tiny doesn't respond, but the guilty look on his face is answer enough.

"It's okay, don't worry. I was sort of expecting it," she offers.

"Hey, it's not like I didn't want to see you, don't get me wrong…"

"It's okay, I get it," she cuts him off. "So, what did he say?"

Tiny looks at her, trying to decipher whether she means it. He seems to decide that she does, and he shrugs, noncommittally. "That he's worried. The usual." He pauses for a second, taking a deep breath. "If you ask me he's way overthinking it. And I told him that, you might be pleased to know," he admits with a sideway grin.

She forces a smile back at him. She understands it must be hard being in Tiny's shoes, right now, stuck between two idiot friends who don't even know how to talk to each other anymore.

"But you still came," she states the obvious.

He looks at her sheepishly. "You know my man Novak. He just turns into a puppy dog when it's about you."

Her lips twist into a smile, but she turns her head not to show him. She's a fraction of a second too late though, and she catches him smiling back in the corner of her eye.

Her face drops almost immediately, though. There's a reason why Zig is worried, and Tiny is checking on her, and her mother keeps calling her twice a day, and Katie already planned a visit for the upcoming weekend.

"It's not like he doesn't have a point, right? I get it," she starts, trying to diffuse the situation. "After all, I'm the crazy one, aren't I?"

She expects him to come back with something teasing, to match her exaggerated face with one of his own, to laugh his friendly belly-laugh and tell her that every respectable gang needs a psycho, or something like that. But he doesn't. Instead, he sits up, leaning over his elbow to look her in the eyes.

"You know what? I don't believe that." His stare is so intense that she has to lower her eyes. He moves even closer to her, his tone gentle but firm. "It's been over eight months. You've been good. He has to stop treating you like you're made of glass." There's an awkward pause, and then he whispers, barely audible, "We all should."

She lifts her gaze to meet his, but finds him staring intently at the laces of his shoes. She wants to say no worries, that she gets it, she's not mad (how could she be?). They're just looking out for her, and she's grateful, really, to have such good friends, who stick around through good and bad. Yet, her words get lost somewhere between her lungs and her throat, forming a lump that is painful, and uncomfortable, and suddenly so damn difficult to swallow back.

"Thanks," is all she manages to say.


Tiny keeps coming back, pretty much every other weekend — sometimes more often. One Saturday that he's not working his usual job they drive down to Venice Beach together. It's funny, back in Toronto Maya thought she would be at the beach constantly, once in L.A. In truth, after Orientation week when she went twice — already picturing the madly beautiful life she would have for the next 4 years — she hasn't been back. It's been over a month, and real life kicked in, with coursework and deadlines and a gazillion other things to do.

But today feels like a holiday. It might not be as warm as it was back in August, but for Canadian standards, this is definitely still beach weather. It's a bit windy, though, and they both enjoy their layers of clothes, flannels hanging loosely on top of her tank top and his t-shirt. They lay a blanket on the sand and lie down comfortably at either side. Tiny's brought a bag of crisps that they keep passing back and forth; Maya's taken her guitar and plays it lazily while lying on her back, the smooth wood of the sound box resting against her belly. Tiny requests a few songs and she complies, humming softly over the chords. Her fingerpicking is a bit sloppy in this position, but who cares.

It's nice, being lazy and care-free like this. She ends the chorus of the song she was playing and seamlessly transitions into another, her fingers moving out of habit and with a mind of their own. This one is not something Tiny will recognise, though.

"Cool stuff," he says, picking up on the unfamiliar transition, "Is that a new song?"

She smiles, not even fully turning towards him. "It's just a riff. I came up with it in Zig's car, now that I think of it."

"Inspired by the journey?"

She chuckles at the memories, despite herself. "It must have been somewhere through the Midwest. Absolutely nothing to do for days…"

"Man and woman in a car, in the middle of nowhere. You're right, I can't think of anything you two could have done to entertain yourselves," he deadpans, the most obvious dudebro smirk on his face as he wiggles his eyebrows at her.

Maya can't help smiling as she rolls her eyes exaggeratedly at him.

"We didn't sleep together, you know," she clarifies. "Not that it's any of your business, by the way."

Tiny doesn't look persuaded in the slightest. "I don't believe you."

"We didn't! As a matter of fact, we didn't even kiss."

"Gee… you guys are hopeless, aren't you?" he says with affection, and she shrugs in response.

"It would have been too awkward, don't you think? What was I supposed to do, make out with him and then, bye Zig, see you at Christmas?"

Tiny raises his hands in defeat, shaking his head. They don't have to talk about Zig, although it's kind of nice that they can if they want to. Maya lifts her face and stares at the cloud, her fingers picking the string of the guitar in a random pattern, just for fun. She follows the rhythm of the ocean, and of her heartbeat, and of Tiny breathing next to her.

It's strange with Tiny. He's one of her oldest friends at this point, and possibly the only one she never had a falling out with. She'd like to tell him she's grateful they're still friends, after all the mess, that she didn't just lose him in the divorce like it would have been easy to expect. But she doesn't know how to express those feelings without sounding hopelessly cheesy, or dorky. So she stays quiet, and the moment passes.

The rest of the term flies by in a blur of new friends, sleepless nights to finish assignments, college parties, and a weekend at Stanford with Katie after midterms. Maya feels like she's been in L.A. forever, and at the same time it's like she only moved in yesterday. Surely it was just the blink of an eye, and yet it's Winter Break already.

Maya returns home for Christmas, but Tiny doesn't. His brother's still in prison, he hasn't seen his mum in years, and fuel is expensive on a college student budget. Besides, some Holiday pay and double shifts left available by his co-workers will do nicely for his bank account. Maya still feels bad, leaving him back by himself. It's a silly thought, she knows it — he's hardly alone, in one of the most populous cities in America, and some of his college friends are sticking around through the break. His own girlfriend is coming down to visit after Christmas, he'll hardly be missing her company. Still, Maya starts planning in her head to ask her mother if they can invite him over, next year.

Three weeks and some typical holiday-drama later Maya's back in town, and Tiny's the first person she calls to hang out. He was expecting her call, has cleared his schedule for the night. They're in Maya's room, this time. Her roommate is still back home in Oregon for one more night, so she thought they might take advantage of it and watch a movie from the comfort of her bed. She's missed her little college room, while she was home.

They eat what counts as a ridiculous amount of pop-corn, for two people, and by the time the movie is over they're both pretty defeated, slumped down on her wobbly mattress with a mountain of decorative pillows all around them.

Silence feels comfortable between them. The room is dark after Maya closes her laptop, but she's too lazy to reach for the lamp. Tiny shuffles next to her until he's lying on his side, his head propped up against his hand. He's looking at her, and his eyes glisten from the light coming in from the lampposts outside.

"You're driving him crazy," he tells her.

Maya takes a deep breath, her eyes firmly on the ceiling above them. She knew the time of reckoning would come, she's not so naive to expect otherwise.

"I take it that he told you?" she asks, and there's no bite in her voice.

Of course Zig would tell him what happened over Christmas. Tiny's his best friend. Which guy wouldn't go venting about his crazy-ass ex, who showed up, invited him over, hooked up with him and then ghosted him for the rest of the holidays. She knew Tiny would know, by now, and she doesn't mind. She just wishes she knew what to tell him.

"I don't want to mess with you guys," Tiny clarifies, "it's your business, and you're both my friends — and I'd like to keep it that way. But just so you know, you're doing a number on him."

To his clear horror, Maya bursts down in tears at his words, and the sheer panic on his face would be comical if she wasn't so caught up in the mess of her own making.

"I don't know what to do… I keep messing everything up!" she cries.

"Hey, no, Maya… I didn't mean to... "

Maya hides her tear-struck face in her hands and barely hears him mumble reassuring words at her. When Tiny puts a hesitant hand on her shoulder Maya rolls towards him as a reflex, revelling in the comforting feeling of his arms around her. It takes her a while to calm down and stop weeping in his t-shirt, but she finally does. She moves back, sniffling, and silently wipes her tears away from her face.

"I'm sorry," he says, "I wasn't implying that you messed up, okay? I just thought I'd nudge you a little into finally telling him what you want from him, that's all."

Maya scoffs — although it turns out more like a sob — and she rolls her teary eyes wildly at the mere idea.

"I don't even know what I want," she confesses. It's a little scary, because she's never said it out loud, before. "It's such a freaking mess. I care about Zig, obviously. I've known him forever, and we've been through so much together. He's made me the happiest I've ever been, and he's broken my heart in a thousand little pieces. And now I don't know how I feel about him anymore."

Tiny is quiet for a very long time. Her face is dry, by the time he speaks again, and her body feels numb from the wait.

"Maybe you should tell him that," he murmurs, so softly she would miss it if he weren't literally right next to her ear. "I know he acts like an idiot most of the time, but he does listen to you. And somehow your words always seem to get through that thick skull of his."

She turns her head towards him and takes a look at his face. Their eyes got used to the darkness, and she can make out the features of his face, his cheekbones, the little dimple at the right side of his mouth.

"I'm not sure I know how," she whispers back.

Tiny smiles, and it's soft and gentle and caring.

"I know you'll find a way."


School starts again, and it's somehow even more brutal than the previous term. Maya's life gets sucked into a composition class that requires about 40 hours of work per day just to stay afloat, and Tiny doesn't seem to have it any easier, over at CalTech: every time Maya hears from him he's either resurfacing from a shift at work, or from an extenuating study session with his lab partners. They still make time for each other occasionally, but nowhere near as frequently as before. Every once in a while he would show up by her door with take-out, or she would send him an invite to a gig to try and drag him out of his nerdy bubble, but the more-or-less fortnightly schedule they kept up last term has become unsustainable.

Before they know it it's midterms, and then finally Spring Break. This one is going to be special because the whole gang is coming to visit. Zig and Grace and Jonah, all stacked up in Grace's parents' camper van.

Maya hasn't talked to Zig since Christmas.

They all agreed on a meeting point by Maya's campus, and Tiny is already there with her by the time they spot the old camper van approaching. They smile wide at each other, walking towards their friends as they reverse into the parking place.

"California, here we come!" Jonah shouts from the driver's seat window with a grin on his face. "Hey guys!"


Grace skips off the van as soon as the engine's off and comes crushing her into a hug.

It still feels new to see her like this, almost back to her old self. Grace was on supplemental oxygen for most of their senior year, and even back at Christmas when Maya last saw her she was still recovering from the lung transplant she got last summer. And yet here she is, all the way down to L.A. on a week-long road trip, bouncing around in excitement.

"It's so good to see you!" she squeals into her ear.

"You too, Grace," says Maya, and she means it. She's missed her best friend.

Grace steps back from her to trap Tiny into his own soul-crushing hug and Maya catches Zig's eyes for the first time. He shuffles over, crooked smile and all, a hand reaching for the back of his neck in that little nervous gesture of his she knows so well.

"Hey Maya," he greets her.

"Hey," she barely has time to respond before he steps forward and takes her into a bear hug.

And suddenly, it's like no time has passed. No months of silence, no stupid misguided Christmas mistakes, no crazy ex-girlfriend from high school, no fights, no heartbreak, nothing.

Just Zig.


It feels good to have the whole gang here, reunited at last, but it's also weird. One moment they're all joking around, or Grace is shoving chips into Tiny's mouth making him choke on his own laughter; the next moment Zig glances at her, or their hands accidentally brush against each other, and suddenly a chill is running down her spine and through her whole body. And she can see that the others notice, and that Jonah is hiding a grin under his breath — which just makes it all even weirder.

The day turns into a night of shenanigans. Driving around L.A. in a camper van would be a total nightmare, so instead they all pack into Tiny's car and head to Hollywood Boulevard to be proper tourists for a little while. Once all the obligatory picture duties are fulfilled, Maya drags them to a music venue where some upperclassmen she knows are playing a set. It's a bit of two worlds colliding, her old band mates and her new friends in the same place, but Grace and Jonah appreciate the music like she knew they would, and it's a fun night out. They end up driving all the way to Santa Monica Pier before heading back, and they stroll through the lights scooping ice cream down their throats as they go.

It's pretty late when they get to the camper van, but they still climb inside to chill and play Uno, like old times. They could probably all crash here if they really wanted, but it's a bit stuffy and crammed. Tiredness gets the best of Grace first, and Jonah soon follows her to their bed in the back. The night's pretty much over after that, Maya and Zig step outside with Tiny and they all hug goodnight before letting him drive back to his place.

"I'll walk you back to your dorms," Zig volunteers. Tiny's car has just turned onto the main road and disappeared into the night, and they're the only two left.

"I mean, you don't have to," she says – because really, it's not that far.

"I know, but I want to," he reiterates, and there's something in his eyes, in his relaxed smile. She nods at him, a sense of warmth growing between her ribs, expanding around her heart.

So, they walk back together, not quite touching and yet so close to each other. It's a feeling so familiar it almost aches, and Maya cherishes it like a long-lost treasure. And, maybe Zig doesn't leave after kissing her goodnight by her front door; and maybe she lets him know that she wouldn't mind if he wanted to stay; and maybe he takes her hand in his, fingers woven together by muscle memory, and follows her inside.

It's barely morning when the light filtering through the windows hits her eyes, stirring her from sleep. Zig is shuffling very quietly around her, picking up his clothes from the night before, discarded on the floor. He kisses her forehead before heading out, murmurs, 'See you in a little while.' She falls back asleep in an instant.

She wakes up an hour later, to the sound of her alarm and an empty space in her bed. She lies back into her sheets that still smell like him and smiles quietly at herself, taking it all in before the day really starts.

It's just past nine in the morning when she strolls down towards the van, guitar slung on her shoulder and a beach towel wrapped under her arm. Today is the only full day they all have to spend together, as the gang will leave again tomorrow, and they plan to enjoy the California sun. Tiny arrives like clockwork to pick them up, bringing breakfast takeout with him and thus instantly becoming everyone's favourite person. They all pile up in his beat up car once again and dig into their coffees and greasy muffins as he drives them down to Venice Beach.

She hasn't been here in a while, and the sight of the ocean instantly fills her with peace. Maya closes her eyes and breathes in the salty air, feeling the sun kissing her skin. She was born to be a beach creature, she thinks, she can feel her soul healing every time she comes down here.

The boys immediately start being boys, doing all their silly things. They race each other to the waves, challenge each other to take on the cold water and squealing at the impact. Once they're sufficiently frozen they start digging a hole in the sand, trying to get deep enough to find water at the bottom. They call the girls in, too, to enlist their help to build a giant-scale sandcastle, and she and Grace happily comply. Maya laughs like she hasn't in ages, saltwater on her skin and sand in her hair.

When an argument erupts on the correct texture to achieve the best looking sand spires for the main tower, Maya steps out from the thick of it to go grab a sip of water from their things. She ends up sitting on her towel, enjoying a breather, and the vantage point on the sidelines looking in. Tiny joins her shortly after, takes a seat down next to her.

"So… Grace said Zig didn't come back to the camper van last night. And I happen to know for a fact he wasn't with me."

Tiny smirks at her and Maya feels her face light up.

"I guess everyone's figured it out, then."

"Well, you two weren't exactly subtle, let's put it that way."

Maya wants to dig a hole in the ground and disappear.

Tiny scoots closer to her, and his voice is gentler when he asks, "Wanna talk about it?"

Maya gives him the best puppy-dog eyes she can. "Not really…"

Tiny smiles and shoves her playfully. "Okay. Just thought I'd check in since, you know. Everything."

Maya smiles back, resting her head on his shoulder. She closes her eyes, taking in the quiet calm of this moment.

"I'm good, you know?" she says after a while. "It was good."

Tiny wraps an arm around her and brings her close.

"I'm very happy for you," he whispers in her ear.

They both look on to their friends, Jonah and Zig building their silly sand castle while arguing like seasoned construction workers, Grace almost rolling on the sand with laughter from their antics. Maya leans into Tiny's side and closes her eyes, taking in the sounds around her, of ocean and laughter. She's surrounded by her favourite people in the world. And she feels at peace.

It's been a long while since the last time, but eventually it happens again: Maya wakes up in a cold sweat, pulling out from a nightmare that bore the familiar, hellish shapes of burnt metal and fire and trapped loved ones in a flaming school bus.

It used to happen almost every night, right after the crash. Back then, waking up startled and terrified in the middle of the night, she wouldn't have done anything. She would have welcomed the dreadful feeling — any feeling, really — letting the fear go through her in waves, almost relishing in it. She doesn't like thinking about those days, now, but she knows it's true.

The nightmares got better as time passed, less frequent. And she got better, too, starting to heal and to avoid the most destructive behaviours. A year ago, on those nights that still trapped her in her own memories, she would have probably called Grace. Or maybe texted her, or — let's face it — more likely she would have just waited to see her at school the next day, afraid to be a burden like Maya always was.

Now, she doesn't even think of what she's doing as she dials Tiny's number.


She's clearly woken him. It's late, like, 3 a.m. late, and a little voice in her head tells her she should feel guilty, but she's too messed up right this moment to care very much about it. She notices she's shaking, badly, and she can barely put two words together as she whispers in her phone, "Can you come over, please?"

Tiny is at her door half an hour later. She's calmed down a little, in the meanwhile, and started to feel a little ashamed of herself for dragging him out of bed like this. She comes down to wait for him outside, and as she sits on the concrete step by her building's entrance she shivers a little in the cool air of the night. When she finally sees him approaching, she springs to her feet in no time, and pretty much launches herself into his arms.

"I'm sorry…"

"It's okay."

"I really needed to see you."

"Calm down, Maya, it's okay."

She's shaking pretty violently, and it's not just the cold. Her cheeks are wet with nervous tears, and she gives up on trying to talk and buries her face against his chest instead. Tiny wraps her solidly in his arms, rests his chin on top of her head and keeps her there, breathing steadily against her.

Minutes later — or maybe hours, who knows — they're sitting together on the curb. Tiny has found an old hoodie in his car and draped it over her shoulders, and she's feeling a little better.

"Do you have them often? These nightmares?" he asks her.

Maya shrugs. "Sometimes. It'd been a while since the last. But it doesn't matter how much time passes, every time it's like being back."

Her words trail off, and Tiny sits quietly next to her. His eyes are fixed on the ground, his hands interlaced in front of him, elbows resting on his knees.

"Thank you for coming here, Tiny. Really," she says, and he moves ever so slightly to meet her gaze. She takes a deep breath, glancing up to the sky to avoid his eyes. "I just… I needed to see someone who'd been there, you know? Someone who could understand." She wraps her arms tighter around herself and merely whispers, "Maybe I needed to be reminded that we're all alive and safe."

They're sitting so close, and the night is so still that she can hear him exhale.

"I'm sorry," she says again. "I know it's messed up. I'm messed up."

"Nah, Maya…" Tiny scoots even closer to her and puts an arm around her, shaking his head. "It's okay. There's nothing wrong with you."

He guides her to lean on his shoulder and she just rests there, breathing in and out in the eerie quiet of this late hour.

"I went to counselling too, you know?" he finally whispers after long minutes of silence.

She raises her eyes towards him but doesn't say anything, letting him talk.

"With Ms. Grell, when school started again. Only a few times, but it helped. I had nightmares too, at first."

Maya laces her fingers through his, holding onto his hand to try and keep them both grounded.

"We made it out, though. Didn't we?" she asks, feebly.

It's a bit of a stretch to say it like that. Maya still talks to a therapist once a week, and she can't really remember a time when she didn't. And Tiny, I mean, look at him. He seems so well-adjusted from the outside, and it's so easy to forget at times how screwed up he is as well. His family, his brother, the whole mess that was his childhood. And not just his, either. Pretty much all of the people she loves are damaged in some way. Tiny and Zig with their scary gang-related past, how deep into it they used to be, and how hopeless it all felt back then. Jonah, still walking around with the ghost of the person he used to be on his shoulders. And Grace with her second chance at life that still comes with a ticking time-bomb attached.

She loves these people — her people — and most of the time it's easier to forget all the fucked up turns of the road that lead them here and that brought them together. But there are other times, like tonight, when it's impossible to ignore.

Tiny looks at her, and his lips twist into that little smile he has.

"Yeah, we did," he says.

And Maya leans her head back on his shoulder. They'll never be normal, maybe, she and Tiny and all the people she loves. They'll always be scarred by their past, and once in a while it'll burst out like it did tonight. But when that happens, they'll always be there for each other. And that's okay.


Tiny comes to see her two more times the following week, and while she appreciates the gesture she finally tells him he really doesn't need to. She's fine, honest, it was all a bit of an overreaction anyway. She knows he's busy — like, crazy busy, really — and, seriously, he doesn't need to keep checking on her like this. He swears it's not like that, he just felt like stopping by. She lifts her eyebrows at him so high he finally has to admit that maybe it does have a little to do with it.

Eventually, after a bit of convincing, Tiny commits to dial down the worrying, but not before making her promise in return to go to a party at his dorms next Wednesday. She agrees easily, waves at him with a smile as he drives away.

It only occurs to her later, once she's in the campus library and deep into transposing music for an assignment, that Freshman year is almost over and she's never even been to Tiny's dorms before.

So, in brief, that's how Maya Matlin ends up at CalTech on a Wednesday night, holding a solo cup filled with watery warm beer, chatting with an aspiring engineer named Chris who lives two doors down from Tiny. Girls in general seem to be a bit of a rarity in these parts, and the fact that Maya is a real life musician makes her stand out as if she had a second head growing from her neck, as she soon finds out when she volunteers that information. The party is cool, though, the beer abundant, and it's nice to see Tiny nerding out in his environment, for once.

"You guys should totally come by next time my band plays," she slurs with alcohol-induced boldness. John-the-Math-major and John-the-ICT-major have joined Chris to form a little group of invested listeners around her.

"Totally! When would that be?" Computer-John asks.

"There's open-mic nights every Tuesday on campus at SoCalArt," she says. "That's our gig for now, but next year we're hoping to branch out a bit."

"They're really good, I can vouch for that," Tiny's voice pops up from next to her, soon followed by his arm slinging around her shoulders. "Matlin, though, this is a party, not a PR opportunity."

"Everything is a PR opportunity, if you look at it the right way."

Tiny grins at her, shaking his head. "And that, my friends, is why this girl will be way famous before any of us."

"Cheers to that!" yells Math-John, raising his cup, and they all down their drinks, not even remembering what they're laughing about.

It's a good party – Maya has to admit that. She's pleasantly buzzed the whole time, and definitely amused at the many, many ways in which STEM skills can apparently be applied to increasingly efficient alcohol consumption methods.

(She had spotted a weird-looking apparatus in a corner, on the way in. "Don't ask," Tiny had said at her pointed look. A couple of hours later she sees it in action and, well. Let's say that's not what she pictured people doing with their knowledge of fluid dynamics.)

Hours later she collapses on Tiny's bed, completely exhausted and yet still giggling from the night. She scoots over towards the wall, making space for him to crawl in next to her. They fall asleep in seconds, out cold, back to back.


Spring comes and goes in the blink of an eye. Once again, Maya and Tiny have to put their hangouts on hold due to extenuating circumstances, and most days Maya finds herself so deep in work that she falls asleep on her homework, more than once. The entire month of May feels like a neverending week with no breaks, and on the rare occasions when Maya actually manages to sleep, she can see notes and pentagrams as if they were tattooed on the back of her eyelids. It's not pleasant.

All things come to end, though, and with finals finally behind her, the only thing left before Summer is the end-of-year Showcase, at which each Music student is required to perform. Maya got her fair share of live performances under her belt this year, putting her confidently back on stage after her slowdown the last year of high school. Still, the Showcase is a big deal for Freshmen, and she can feel her limbs jitter with nerves the whole week leading up to it. She's playing solo for the first time in a while, too, so she can't hide behind her band members. Just her, the keyboard, and lyrics she wrote that all of a sudden feel way too personal to share with a room full of people.

As always, though, all the tension and butterflies disappear the moment she steps on stage, the lights blinding in her eyes and the familiar sound of the crowd quieting at the start of a new act. All the people she knows in L.A. are in this room, basically. Her entire class is performing; her roommate and all her friends from college are here to support her; and out back, a smile so bright it's rivalling the stage lights, stands Tiny. The dark circles under his eyes are so deep she can spot them from the stage, and she knows he's even more sleep deprived than she is, but he told her he wouldn't miss this. So here he is.

She leans into the microphone and says, "This song is for my friend, Tiny." She winks at him before playing the first chord.


And then, it's over. Freshman year is officially over.

Maya spends the next couple of days helping Tiny move his stuff to his new off-campus apartment that he's sharing with four other people. He's scored a paid internship for the summer, so he's staying once again in L.A., but his girlfriend will soon join him for a couple of weeks before heading to Florida on a Track & Field scholarship at UF. Today is his turn to help, and they're finally taping the last of her boxes to bring down and haul into Katie's car.

It's such a strange feeling, emptying out this room that's been her home for almost a year. Maya's grown and healed so much in the last months, and these four walls have been the backdrop to all of that.

She's also acquired so much crap, it's not even funny. It's a blessing, in the end, that Tiny is staying for the summer, so she can store a few boxes at his place. There's no way all of that would have fit into her sister's car, already half full with Katie's own things.

"You all done, Chicken Nugget?" her sister asks, leaning out of the car window.

"Yes, this is the last of it. Now I just need to drop off my keys and we can go."

"Cool, shall we?"

Maya lays her guitar carefully on top of the pile of suitcases in the back and gently closes the car door. "Sure, just give me one more sec."

Tiny is standing a few feet back, leaning against the side of his own car, parked two spots behind Katie's. Maya walks towards him with a smile on her face, wraps her arms tight around his neck and kisses him on the cheek.

"This year wouldn't have been the same without you," she says, holding him tight against her.

Tiny pulls back, flashes her one of his extra-bright smiles, and ruffles the hair on top of her head. "Have a great summer," he says, "See you soon."

"Bye, Tiny."

She waves at him as she walks back to the car, climbs in on the passenger seat next to Katie. They pull away from the curb, Katie honks twice at Tiny in greeting, and Maya keeps waving at him from the window until she can't see him anymore.

"So, how was this first year of college?" Katie asks, her voice soft.

Maya leans back in her seat, her eyes wondering outside the window and a gentle smile on her face.

"It was great."



Out of the darkness, only light can come
After a lonely long night comes the sun