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     Anise was a loud houseguest. She’d always been that way— a starting cyclonic force of dad-sweater and curly, curly hair.

     Roy loved it, loved that force, met her energy and ran with it between the hours of 8am and 11pm.

     (NOTE: Hours adjustable depending on filming and other outside influences including but not limited to: dares from Jake, alcohol-induced drowsiness, the presence of Hal, and perhaps most importantly: Anise’s cute grumpy face asking him to stay up longer)

     It was 6am, however, and she and Jake were laughing in the kitchen, the sound loud enough to reach under his door. He pressed his pillow over his face, before lowering it to complain as loudly as he could.

     “Too loud, too early!”

     He was rewarded with a new peal of Anise and Jake’s laughter, and groaned. Not fair. Too much. Too happy. Too bright.

     Dammit he wanted to see them.

     His doorknob turned and Anise walked in, grinning. 

     “Run with us!” she offered, as she usually did on the mornings she decided she was going to join Jake and Levine on their morning jog.

     She was jogging in place lightly, wearing one of her new workout looks: a fuzzy orange sweatband and matching leg warmers. It poorly matched with one of her massive winter jackets.

     Roy found himself sitting up, rubbing some of the sleep out of his eyes, just to take all that in.

     “You look like the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man shooting a workout video.”

     Stay-Puft Anise turned a brilliant shade of red and pulled his quilt off in revenge. Roy doubled-over laughing.

     “I take it back!” she shouted. “Offer revoked!”

     Roy caught the base of her huge jacket, pulling her in before she could storm off, in order to drop a quick kiss to her lips.

     “Run safe,” he whispered, and watched as her scowl softened into a familiar fond smile.

     “See you,” she replied, pushing his head back into the pillow without any real force. Roy laid there, watching her jog out with a stupid grin on his face, enjoying the sounds of the muffled conversation between her and Jake.

     As he pulled his quilt back up, and settled back into bed— he’d never felt luckier.

     “You’re going to tire yourself out before we even start, Anise,” Jake laughed, stretching on the sidewalk in front of Lev’s apartment.

     “I’m fine,” Anise breathed, maintaining her jog. “I have to stay warm somehow!”

     “You look pretty warm to me,” Jake teased. “You know you look kind of like the Stay-Puf—”

     “I don’t want to hear it!”

     Lev was walking down the stairs, thank god. Anise had had just about enough of this. She called out to greet him and he matched her enthusiasm, dashing down the stairs. Anise was disappointed to find that his coat was not only less puffy than hers, but clearly was designed for jogging. It looked both breathable and warm— damn him. 

     “You joining us today, Anise?” he asked.

     Anise stopped her jogging to grin and stretch a little, showing off her technique. She and Ruth had gone running the last few weeks to make sure that Anise had the stamina to keep up with both Jake and Lev.

     “Great form!” Lev praised, and it went straight to Anise’s head. She had this!

     “You bet! I want to get in shape before Christmas. College is too much sitting around, I gotta get on my feet.”

     Jake shook his head, watching her fondly. He’d changed so much, looked so much more comfortable now— Anise almost missed his usual flustered face. Still, they were all happier now. Not just holding themselves together, but happy.

     “Right on, Anise,” Lev replied, stretching next to Jake. “We’ll get you there, right Jake?”

     “Of course.”

     He held onto Jake’s arm in order to balance for a second, and Anise realized with delighted glee that Jake could still definitely, definitely still get flustered.

     Home might look different, but here they all were— changing, together.

     They took a break in the park, Jake loosening the scarf around his neck before downing the rest of his water. Anise might have had the right idea with her frantic jogging earlier— it was cold!

     “Man Anise,” Levine announced, wiping some sweat off his forehead with the back of his hand. “I gotta give you some credit. You’re keeping up much better than Jake did at first.”

     Anise seemed to sparkle at the praise, and Jake found himself frowning competitively in spite of himself.

     “Give me a break, walking around the city was my main form of exercise back then. I hadn’t done track in years. ”

     A few memories pulled at his heart. Roy’s twisted ankle. Quitting track early, just because Roy had wanted so badly to be number one. How different would their lives have been if Jake had just decided then, right then, to change to the 800? Just because he’d wanted to.

     It was a pointless thought. Impossible for Jake back then— Jake who was always following, always holding, gripping…

     Not anymore.

     “Besides,” Jake said, lightly. “I can certainly keep up now.“

     “Well, you’re not exactly a boxer,” Levine teased, and Jake flipped his sunglasses up off his face.


     Jake laughed, loud and free. His stomach thrilled at the immediate blush on Levine’s cheeks— Anise had joined him, resting her warm hand on his shoulder.

     “You had that one coming Lev!” she said.

     A quiet, honest, pride filled Jake’s chest. This moment, these feelings— they were all his.

     Alex plotted a shorter route for their jog. Anise wasn’t as experienced, and while she was a natural at this— probably wasn’t the best idea to drag her through the city.

     He was pretty relieved because about a mile from home the weather decided to cut their jog short anyway.

     “It’s snowing!” Anise shouted, slowing her pace. Alex and Jake turned around to stand with her, looking at the sky.

     “Well, I’ll be…” Jake replied. “First snow of the year.”

     Alex smiled, palm open to catch a snowflake in his hand. It melted quickly against his sweaty skin and felt amazing.

     “Think it’s cold enough for it to stick?” he asked, turning to Jake. It seemed like the sort of thing Jake would know— he read the paper like it was a religion.

     Jake only shrugged, a faraway look in his eye. “No idea. Wasn’t predicted today.”

     “Sure is pretty,” Anise said, but her voice had shifted, uncharacteristically somber.

     Alex raised his eyebrows. “You two okay?”

     Jake spoke first. “Ah, yeah. Snow just gets me feeling a little nostalgic.”

     Anise smiled, seeming to understand whatever Jake was talking about. She nudged his shoulder. Alex felt something concerned and quiet pull in his chest, and he nudged him as well.

     “You know, I was just thinking, we’ve come a long way, haven’t we?” Anise whispered. “From everything.”

     Jake nodded, quiet. He was leaning a bit on Alex’s shoulder, hand on Anises’s smaller, puffier one.

     For a moment they just stood like that, out on the street, watching the snow fall.

     Then, one by one, starting with Jake, and ending with Anise— they smiled, straightened up, dusted themselves off and adjusted their jackets. Nodded.

     Silent, together, they began the walk home.