When Lynn woke up, there were names swimming in her head, threatening to pour out the weeping eye socket that was packed with gauze and bandages. Gennedy. Radvi. Arianna. Che. Che. Che.
One swam out to the forefront.
Lynn blinked her eye open and turned, breathing shallow and gasping on the respirator. Her throat - her throat was sore. Like someone had made her swallow sandpaper. Feeding tube
, Lynn thought for a moment, lifting the arm that was bound by an IV to enough rolling fluids to keep her hydrated until the end of her life.
“Wrrtrr,” Lynn choked, gasping. She coughed and coughed, turning. Ash splattered out onto the bedsheets. Get it together you fucking bitch
, Lynn wanted to scream. You’re not dead yet. You have a few more hours
. Lynn looked at the room around her. One thing she had learned in prison, growing up, anywhere - any few moments you could take to gain some kind of knowledge about your surroundings was invaluable. She looked at the room, blinking, bleary. My eye
, she thought. I got my eye -
The kid. Burning. Burning. The gun melting through his -
Lynn closed her eye and leaned back into the pillow, trying to keep her breathing steady. Christ. For a beautiful moment she’d - she’d almost forgotten, and -
She opened her eye again, staring up at the ceiling. “Cara,” Lynn whispered, hoarse as a dead man.“Yes, Lynn?
“Water. A nurse. And….” Lynn closed her eye, gripping the side of the hospital bed to force some kind of stability into her bones. They’re shooting me full of something
, Lynn thought, her thoughts swimming. All of them swam up and rippled out across the front of her mind. All but one.
“Anderson. Please...call Anderson and tell him to come here.”“No need. He is in this room with you. He will return from physical therapy shortly.”
Lynn giggled. She giggled until her throat, raw from the feeding tube, coughed and hacked again. “That was funny, Cara.”“...I’m sending for a nurse immediately.”
There was a bit of a bustling sound against the door, as if someone was fumbling around outside rather than simply turning the door handle. Eventually whomever was on the other side managed to get a grip. Archie, clad in a shoulder sling that seemed to stiffen and brace the shoulder, stumbled through the doorway muttering a string of shoot, dangit, and hell’s
and shut it gingerly behind him.
He just about jumped out of his skin when he turned around and saw Lynn sitting up in her bed. The noise he made, halfway between a squeak and a yell, was almost pitiful if not funny considering the source was a five foot nothing girl… but Archie was not a brave man inherently. Not like she was.
“Lynn…!” he said, eventually regaining his composure. “You’ve been-” he trailed off, his mind racing somewhat. Between all of the things that had happened over the past several days and the last time he had seen Lynn, it… probably wouldn’t be a good idea to mention that she had gone in and out of consciousness more than a few times. Or that she had seemed to be in pain when she was. Or that she had said names of people that he didn’t know. People she had never mentioned to him. So in an act that was strangely emotionally intelligent for a man that habitually grabbed the hands of living suns and super strong girlfriends, he didn’t. At least not in that moment. “I- I’m glad you’re up. Are you, y’know, feeling okay?”
Lynn stared at Archie with one eye that flickered between light blue and soft red and sunshine yellow the sort of way she had never looked at anyone. You were always a stupid girl,
Lynn thought, You thought he was like Che.
“Back from the dead,” she said, coughing again. A nurse entered with a cup of water and some instructions and medical terms Lynn didn’t listen to. As long as she had a pulse and food in her stomach, she would live. Lynn sipped on the water slowly as she left, then put the cup on the table. “For a little while.” Lynn looked over at Archie, just looking for a moment. This will not get easier the longer you wait,
she wanted to say, and she felt like the corner of the room, the visiting chair to her left that was gone to her sight - she felt like Che was sitting there, mocking her between sips of whiskey. “How are you?” she asked quietly, drinking more water. His hand is bandaged. He won’t get any closer to you. He knows better.
Archie shrugged, or at least tried too, moving only the unrestrained shoulder upwards. “It’s my first time taking a bullet. At least, when I’m not covered in scales.” he explained. He sighed but grinned for her benefit. “It felt weird. All that stopping power. Been hit all sorts of times, big brother used to beat the hell out of me when we were kids, but I didn’t even feel the bullet. One moment I’m getting ready to say hello to a bunch of new kids and the next I’m bleeding out on the floor.”He laid on the floor staring straight ahead for what felt like a while but couldn't have been more than a few seconds. He saw people jerk and fall, some managing to hobble up or move. Some didn't. Amidst the chaos he saw Lynn get shot twice in the chest, the force of the bullets just about taking her off her feet. One landed home on Amelia's upper body, where her neck connected to her shoulder. She fell, and he couldn't see the damage and if it was fatal or not. His eyes flashed to Eli just in time to see a round enter and exit her left calf.
Archie shook for a moment, suddenly violently uncomfortable with the memory. “I, uh… I watched people die. Watched you and other friends get shot and- and apparently when I turned I-”
He felt his stomach flip, and he took several brisk steps towards Lynn’s side of the room where the sink was and released whatever he had eaten for lunch. He had killed people. He had killed people and he didn’t even remember their faces. People that had lives and families just like him that he had snuffed out just like that. Yeah, they were bad people who hurt other people. Who hurt him- but he couldn’t shake the idea that he was like them because he had killed
them. He had almost killed Keaton and Eli and that Nic kid, too.
Archie reached up and turned on the sink when he was finished to run his stomach contents down the drain. He rinsed out his mouth too, but since that day… There was a muffled scream that was instantly choked as the power of Archie's jaws forced his teeth through skin and bone vice grip. Like being caught in a giant bear trap that rent flesh and shattered bone. He remembered the feeling of his jaws sliding shut.
“I can’t get the taste of blood out of my mouth.” he said, half to himself and half to Lynn. That thick, metallic taste seemed to hide in some hidden crevice. Faint but omnipresent and lingering like some hidden putrid scent.
Lynn watched and said nothing. He’ll have the Salamandra dreams now,
she thought bitterly. If she had ever believed in Santa Claus, she would have felt like she was telling him the truth of it all now. There’s no magic under the tree. Just lights that go out when the timer’s done ticking.
Even with one arm in a sarcophagus of a sling, his muscles tensed and flexed as he gripped onto the side of the sink. He was tall, and broad, but he looked younger and more scared than someone a third his size. Lynn didn’t know what to say. She realized, like she always did, too fucking slow. She wasn’t smart like Keaton. She couldn’t put it together in time. Not then, not ever. She should have told Archie this on the first day. “You need to get out of here, Anderson.” Lynn said, quietly, watching him. “Don’t go back to your room, don’t get your shit, don’t - “ she stopped, coughing again, placating her throat with another sip of water. “Don’t pass go. Just leave. This - the - “ Lynn felt her arm rattle as if she was slamming Salamandra’s head into the wall all over again - “it doesn’t go away. You just…” Lynn leaned back into the bed for a minute. “I mean it. I know I’m - just go. Get to the pods and - something, okay. This isn’t where you should be.” Lynn had not noticed her voice wavering. The morphine,
the part of her that had stared Anderson down and wondered what he’d done to get put in those restraints on the first day told her. But the rest knew better. Archie was just Clarita and Megan a few years older, a few inches taller. “Please. Because - “ she stopped, turning away for a moment. She couldn’t gather her thoughts. Whatever they’d given her made them keep slipping away.
“That’s not really an option,” Archie stated. “Aint got no family or friends to go back to. Ma’s gone, Pa’s dead. Brother’s in jail. The night or two before I came here I woke up with my illegal step dad pointing a shotgun at my face, ass naked in the dead of night, caged and surrounded by a town that had tried to kill me.” That probably would kill him if he went back, he mused. “Lotta people come up here and have the worst separation anxiety cases recorded in human history. ‘Cause you leave everything you’ve ever known behind, y’know? Cara checks in on you every day to make sure you’re not curling in on yourself like-” like a naked man in the woods peppered with birdshot and burnt by torches. He breathed, hard and heavy.
Lynn bristled, listening to him. She hadn’t known. It twisted her even more, knowing - you never should have been here. You’re not a bad person.
In a cage. He was a kid. It made her angry, angrier knowing there was nothing she could do. Someone should have kept you safe.
“...but coming up here was easy. Had nothing left. All I’d do is go home and die. Only difference is it’d be alone in the woods as opposed to not alone in the woods.”
He managed to pull himself together enough to push away from the sink and grab a chair, which he pulled up so he could sit next to Lynn’s bed. “You always talk about knowin’
things,” he began. “First day I thought you were gonna bite my head off just for sitting at the same table.” He almost did bite her head off. It turned his stomach again knowing that he would have. “But I don’t know much about you. You’re always acting like someone’s gonna slink out from behind and-”
He remembered how she acted when they found the body. No cops. How angry she got when Natalie had called them. How she had acted when they were interrogated after they were released. How she had jumped and burned
him when he took her hand. How she was talking now, as if she knew shit that he didn’t. It bothered him to no end- because he had just physically and metaphorically spilled his guts to her and yet here she was telling him to do this, that, and whatever from some unknown position of authority. Archie was tired of not knowing Lynn. He was tired of calling her his friend when he knew
she didn’t for a moment feel the same way about him. Normally he wouldn’t ask, or press. He’d be sweet, dumb, good kid little Archie. But not right now. Right now he deserved some answers.
Something inside Lynn went cold, cold like she’d never felt even on the floor of the cafeteria, and Lynn couldn’t look away. Ice cubes clinked in a whiskey tumblr, somewhere far away. This was it. This was pulling the oversized hoodie off her and showing how rail-thin and hollow her body was to the whole world. Who’s Che?
“How - who…”
“Kept sayin’ it in your sleep. It and few others.”
Lynn leaned back into the pillow. Her first instinct was her oldest one, the safest one, to tell Archie to fuck off, to stop listening, to mind his business, that - but it passed. The bed beeped and the next dose of whatever liquid ecstasy they were pumping Lynn full of coursed into her, and the girl’s body temperature was low enough to keep it more or less chemically intact.
And somewhere in the fuzz Lynn had a crooked grin. It didn’t matter. She could tell Anderson anything. There were only hours left, now. The question was whether it would be Arianna or Gennedy or a handful of terrorists. Or maybe a nurse slips too much of this drug, and there’s one less headache for all of us.
She’d always thought so - since the day she’d come onto the Promise, since the day she’d entered juvy, since the day she played lookout that first time - but she knew it now. There were only hours left. “Okay,” Lynn murmured. “It’s a long story.” Lynn was quiet for a few moments. It was impossible to answer. Who is Che? It was like asking how the sun rose and fell. You could say, “it just does”. You could break down the orbit of the earth. You could tell a myth. They’d all be true. Che just was. He was every ticking rule of the universe that kept things in line. He was more superhuman than she ever was. All true.
“When I was eight years old my hair was down to my waist because every time they tried to cut it the scissors would melt.” Lynn said. Her skin felt far away from her body, now, and there was some warm cloud that was filtering through all the memories and making them almost giggly. Lynn turned and stared at Archie and the warm cloud pushed away the knowledge that she was more wretched to look at now than she ever had been. She didn’t care. “I never knew my folks. I - isn’t it funny? You talk about your brother beating you and I’m jealous
.” Lynn giggled, then blinked. She didn’t like this. She didn’t want the drugs. She fumbled at the needle in her arm but it wouldn’t move, her fingers wouldn’t grip. “I wish I hadn’t...I wish you hadn’t gotten put in that cage,” Lynn said. It was just juvy, really. The same as hers. Just different. They’d made Lynn get naked too, small and bone-thin and hosed down, her almost-bald hair sticking to her skull. “That wasn’t…” Lynn blinked, and the rush was starting to simmer. “I think I killed people when I was ten, Anderson. I threw a bottle. And they had me throw it because things burn better when I…” Lynn blinked again. She closed her eye and forced her thoughts into line, some kind of iron vise tightening around them. She opened it again softly, speaking slow. This was the only thing she thought she’d said that really mattered, aside from theories with Keaton, and even then nothing she’d said had helped. Always too slow,
Che chided. “When...I mean, I don’t have to tell you. It sounds like your family was fucked. I didn’t really have any. I was in foster care from the minute they pulled me out. I - a lot, you know, are. Paras. When the first thing your mom sees is blue hair they…” Lynn drifted. “Anyway. Not a lot of homes kept me. Because I was a shit kid. Breaking stuff. I couldn’t...things burned and I couldn’t help it. I burned a house down, one time, on Christmas. They had candles, and I wanted to play and they…” Lynn fumbled with the needle, but it wouldn’t move. “You know my first name, Cordelia, it...it’s Shakespeare or some shit. It’s supposed to be the good little sister. I fucked that up, didn’t I?”
“I...when I was ten, I met Che. I grew up in a shit city, and in the shit part of that city, and...I dunno. Anderson I...there wasn’t anybody. Like even the other fuck-ups, at least, they weren’t para fuck-ups. And the only other para fuck-ups I knew…” she paused. “They go away. Here, or...I dunno. Here there’s always someone watching and listening. But when your school doesn’t have enough money to keep the lights on, it’s like...they can’t keep track. There’s not enough money. We never really knew. I guess now, they got caught up in gangs, or some fucker sold them off to a billionaire who likes their paras pint-sized. I don’t know.” Lynn breathed again, the world still fuzzy around the edges. “I keep...I keep dodging the question. Che’s not his real name, he...he called himself that. ‘Cause he led all of us. Like Che in the...the one in the books and stuff. He - he saw me on the street one day. And he asked me to do him a favor. I just had to keep an eye out. For just a minute. And…he was, he was the first one who saw me on the street and didn’t look away. So I said sure. And then there was another. And another. And it’s not, like, who the fuck else was there? I was in a different house every eight months because the microwave burned through the wall or I had a nightmare and singed the sheets, you know? And I was a shit kid on top of that, I stole and I - I fought kids. I was always little, and they - you have to show them you’re not a bitch, or... “ Lynn blinked again, unaware her head was swaying as she spoke. You’re making a fool of yourself,
she heard, faintly, through the drugs, but that slipped away. “Anyway. He...he took me under his wing. I did things for him. I was happy to. I was good at something, now. And occasionally I’d have a foster parent who would keep an eye on me, but never for long. I got shuffled around. There were others, too. The names, I - Clarita. Megan. They were like my little sisters. I took care of them, you know. I was only eleven or twelve, but I could fight.” she sipped at the water, holding it to her chest, staring at the wall. “I fought, like adults. There was a warehouse, and I’d go, and they’d put down bets, and - and I always won, because no one thought I could. And you know what’s funny is Che always won those bets but we never had any money, figure that the fuck out.” Lynn paused for a moment, eyes flickering red, but it passed.
Despite himself Archie managed to snort a bit. “If I uh…” he said. “If I didn’t know you any better I wouldn’t have thought you can hit nearly as hard as you can.” This one had stood up to the lizard. He always had to remind himself of that- the two tiniest people he had met were probably some of the strongest in the world.
He scooted up a bit closer to the table and, as gently as he could, put his hand on her arm. Archie wasn’t sure what he was doing- in fairness though he rarely was. He just remembered a day many, many years ago when his adoptive father put a hand on his shoulder after lowering his actual father into the ground and it just felt… nice. He ran the pad of his thumb along her bicep but didn’t meet her gaze, more focused on the catheter in her hand. “Sorry I- continue.”
“If I didn’t know you, I’d be surprised by your weight class too,” Lynn said. When Archie put his hand on her Lynn tensed, but took a breath and kept going, nodding. “I...I don’t know. It was a gang, I mean, but that’s not...people don’t get it. It’s like these were the only people that gave a fuck. The teachers just looked at you and you knew that they didn’t give a shit. You were the two or three kids every year they got to write off, because of course a few kids are gonna fail. And slowly the foster homes get in worse and worse parts of town, and sooner or later I don’t know anybody who ever really gets out. I don’t know anybody older than nineteen or twenty. I wound up in - this guy named Gary, he was my last foster parent. This guy was a piece of shit.” Lynn started chuckling again, wheezing. Cara had told her a funny joke about Gary a while back. “Heh. Sorry. I just remembered something funny. He - he tried to do things. And...he got burned.” Her tone had melted back to serious before she knew it had. “I...I freaked out. I went to Che. And he said that was fine.” she paused for a moment. “Because we had that, over him, you know. Like blackmail. And he - he couldn’t do anything about it. And I thought that wasn’t right. But I said...I said okay. So from then I was with Che all the time. I didn’t have to check back in or anything. And that just became everything. I stole stuff or broke into cars. We jumped people. I kept doing the fights. I helped Che expand. See, the other gangs didn’t have any paras, because that brought the feds down on you. But we were small enough to get by. There was always just one more, one more thing, you know. One more wallet. One more deal. One more fight. But like, he told me, I was always keeping us safe. I was doing the right thing. I was keeping clothes on Clarita and Megan. Like if we could just get a little more we could fix it all. And every time it was a little bit more. A little more...I don’t know how to…” Lynn paused again, shaking. The drugs were swirling in her head. “I wanted him to be proud, Archie, I wanted to be good at something. I wanted...I wanted him to want me...no other guy ever wanted to touch me…he just always knew what to do, or to say, and he could make anything sound like a good idea. And it was, it...” she drifted off again, quiet for a few moments, before she found herself. “Eventually, I...I get to be fifteen or so. And Clarita and Megan, they’re like, they’re like the kid sisters I always wanted, but they’re not really kids any more. I taught them how to tie their shoes and walked them home from school when they still went and everything, you know. And I’m walking back from something one day, and it’s late, way too fucking late, but I haven’t been to school in a month at this point, and Clarita - she’s, she’s Che’s sister - she and Megan are waiting on the sidewalk. And they’re, like, waiting. Not just dicking around.”
Lynn stopped again, steadying her breath. “I...he’d put them out there, to...to.” She couldn’t finish the sentence. “His own fucking sister. I went right to him. I said what the fuck was the point, of, of picking pockets and mugging people and everything if this is what we were doing? It was the only time I ever said anything back to him. Everything else I just said okay, because I thought he knew, but - and I could see in his eyes he was angry, he was so fucking angry, but he said okay. And I believed it was, because I wanted it to be. Because who the fuck else was there.”
Lynn shifted her weight and pulled up the hospital gown, just an inch or two. Her legs were bare, short and pale, and the vicious scar on her knee stood out clearly. “So about a week later, Che says there’s a job we gotta do. Just the two of us. Down at the warehouse. Is it a fight? I ask. No, he says, just roughing up some guys. Nothing I hadn’t done a thousand times before. We go. I go in first, like we always did when we were breaking in somewhere, because I could take the hits, you know, and I go in, and there’s like three dead guys in there. Rival gangs, I don’t remember which, and they’re all burned. Burned bad. They’re dead. And I go to say, ‘What happened?’ and there’s a gunshot. And…” Lynn laughed again, as bitter and empty as a laugh could be. “And my first thought was, they’re behind us, they got somebody behind us. And I tell Che to shoot them. But there’s nobody else.” She paused for a minute, breathing. “And that’s not the kicker. The kicker is he stands there for a second until we hear the sirens. And then he goes. They take me away and the whole time I can’t - I can’t make sense of it. I didn’t get it. There was just some puzzle piece I was missing, you know? Because I was fucking stupid. And so I’m in holding, and I’m talking with the public defender, and the whole time I’m thinking if I could just talk to him we could sort this out, something didn’t make sense. But it made sense. Sooner or later I was gonna say no. Sooner or later I was going to realize I had more firepower in my left hand than he had in the whole gang. And sooner or later I was going to put those together, and he put it together before I did.”
Lynn emptied her water cup but held it closer to her, shaking. “So we go to trial, and I keep thinking, surely - surely one of them will say something. How could I have done that, you know? There’s - there’s no way. And there was a slew of other stuff, arson and shit, anything in the area they could throw, because nobody wanted to think about paras running around uncontrolled. And…” Lynn stopped again, her whole frame shaking. “Not one of them did. They all got up, they’d been busted for some dumb shit a week after, and they all flipped. All of them swore I’d done all of it. My guy, he even proved, like, I would’ve had to be in two places at the same time for half of it, but….but they all swore. They all swore to God. I couldn’t look Che in the eyes. I still thought there was something I did wrong. I just had to sit there and listen.” Lynn stared ahead for a minute. “I taught her how to tie her shoes, Anderson. She told those people I put her out there.” she took another deep breath. “Then juvy. Then...then here.”
She drained what was left of the cup and put it back down. “I don’t know shit,” Lynn said again. “I just know one thing. If you put anybody in that position they do what they do.” She turned and looked at Archie. “I thought you were running some game on me, you know. The first time, in the hospital. But I was wrong. I was really wrong. You’re the kind of person who throws up after what just happened. Not the kind of person who burned a house down when he was ten.” Lynn stared at him. Maybe this is it,
she thought, swimming to stay coherent through the drug-induced stupor. Maybe you never get to any of those fucking kids but you can get to him. Let one decent fucking person get out of here. Christ if you’re even real let me just have one thing.
“Anderson you brought me flowers. No one….” she breathed again, trying to make the words say what she needed them to, but they wouldn’t, they never did. “Each time,” she said, shaking. “Each time you - each time some shit goes wrong we’re both there, have you noticed. And I stayed away from you because I burned you, and I didn’t mean to, I just…” she closed her eye again and focused. “Anderson we’re not gonna both keep getting lucky, okay? And you don’t need to spend the rest of your life throwing up in the sink. You’re a good person, you’re not...I…” she paused, and it was the moment, the Che thing, it all could’ve been a lie, some morphine-made fever dream, but this was it. She reached over and grabbed Archie’s hand and leaned in close, close so that Cara couldn’t hear, she prayed, she dared, and whispered, “I killed Salamandra, Che. When she said she was going to - to rape you. She begged me not to. But I did. And then she blew up and those people died. Because of me. And in the cafeteria. I...I lit one of them on fire, after he shot me.” her fingers were numb but she dug them into him with all the strength she could muster, but she knew it wasn’t enough, it never was. “It was a kid. He burned to death, Archie. I killed him. You can still get out, and I - I - I know back home, there’s no fucking home, but you’re not a bad person yet and that’s what this place will make you. People like me and people like you can’t...you’re always gonna get burned. And I don’t want to burn you. And I think sooner or later something worse than that is gonna happen. And I…” she pulled away and leaned into the pillow, shaking. “I hope it’s me. I know what I am. I hope it’s not Eli or Keaton or Amelia. I hope it’s not Natalie. I hope you don’t know that’s what we’re all like deep down. But somebody will. You’re the kind of guy who walks through the door first. And we always get shot, Anderson. Always. Please get off the station. Just find somewhere. Anywhere else. I know - I know back home is shit but you…” she closed her eye, trying to breathe. She was out of breath.
“Lynn.” Archie said, effectively cutting her off with a firm but incredibly gentle tone. She was feeling the drugs they were giving her and he knew it, but he hoped beyond hope that she would understand him- or at least would remember. Maybe what he did next was stupid, given what had happened last time. Given what she had told him. Given that it would very well blow up in his face a validate every one of her fears for him- but he slid his hand from her arm to under the small of her back and hugged her as best he could with one arm.
Lynn didn’t have hair like normal girls, and she didn’t smell like perfume or shampoo. She smelt like ozone, and smoke, and cinders. She smelt like some of the nicer memories that he had as a child- in the woods with friends and acquaintances getting blasted out of his mind and throwing up on the beach. He rested his head in the crook of her neck and waited to speak- to feel the heat that her whole body emanated from every pore. It was subtle, but a comfort that was unlike any other person that he had ever met. She was unlike anyone he had ever met. He felt her go stiff as a board, but he didn’t pull away. He held her there, close and intimate until he felt the weight of her arms settle on his back.
“Bad things happen.” he mumbled into her neck. “But you
aren’t a bad thing. I’m so glad that I met you.”
It was a simple sentence, but it carried weight to it that many didn’t. To give someone that gift of just being right there. To say what was happening. You’re a great friend. You mean a lot to me. You make me happy.
He pulled away, but kept his hand on her shoulder. He believed her now. At least, more so than he did before. If Lynn thought that they needed to get off this ship then, well, she was probably a lot better at sniffing out a shit situation than he would ever be. She was smarter than him, and more experienced, and he knew it. “I know you don’t trust easy. But… if we get off this station and go… somewhere
, if I walk through those doors first… you better have my back. Every step. You hear me?”
He breathed and met her eyes. Well, eye. “Thank you. For saving my life.”
Something in her twisted, around and around and around, and Lynn could not begin to tell where the knot began or where it ended. Her heartstrings and her gut and her ribs were all bound tight, so tight she couldn’t breathe. She had let herself, for just a moment, hug him. Just relax in it. It was all she wanted. Then it was gone. You aren’t a bad thing. I can’t,
she wanted to whisper. Nobody can, Archie.
Lynn couldn’t look him in the eyes and tell him that. He’s too dumb to know,
she thought. I’m just another Che.
“Anderson,” she said. “If you get the chance to go you take it. I…”
Lynn paused. She closed her eye. She tried to pull back that feeling, of the hug, when she was a good person for a few heartbeats that drummed against each other. If I was beautiful, Archie, would...could it…?
“Okay,” she said softly. I will burn for this before everything else.
“Can you get the others? Are they - “ she hadn’t considered they weren’t alright. The drugs, she wanted to blame, but she knew the truth of it. Ice cubes clinked. “I...we should all meet up. Keaton will know. Where we talked about throwing flour on the floor.” Lynn could not meet his gaze. Just one more lie and it’s over,
she thought. It’s better to lie to Anderson now than...than he gets in a situation where he has to be like me.
If they met there, they’d wait a few minutes. Of course Lynn would be late. Keaton might suspect something. She was early, normally, but maybe she’d be lucky. Maybe Keaton would need a minute to piece it together. Maybe Eli or Amelia says not to worry. But sooner or later Keaton figures it out. Lynn’s not coming. If Lynn could come to the conclusion she had - that things were fucked, fucked now and fucked until they were all dead - they had to get off. And she’d know Lynn couldn’t go. Not when there were dolls left in the woods. And - Lynn prayed - she’d run the math on that, and realize it was smarter to -
Through the drugs, Lynn forced everything soft and swimming to turn to iron. Hold it together,
she wanted to scream. Just a few more minutes. You won’t fuck him over. You won’t let that happen. But if you all have to stay together you will. You burned him before. Just like the kid you murdered.
Archie nodded. “I’ll gather the troops,” he said, but instead of jumping up to his feet and running off to start their mission, scooched a bit closer to the bed. “I’ll send the text. In a while.”
Archie leaned forwards and hugged Lynn again. She was doped up, and probably wouldn’t remember it, but he wanted to show her
. To show her that he trusted her, and that he trusted that she wouldn’t burn him. For now they- or at least she, would rest. “We’ll go together in a while.”
Lynn’s heart sunk into her stomach, but it raced at the same time. The part of her that played with candles at Christmas lifted an arm up around Archie. This was not too much to ask for. Even if she lied. I begged you to fucking listen, Anderson.
She turned, feeling his warmth against her. She was not used to feeling someone else’s warmth. I burned you,
she wanted to say. [/i]I killed a kid.[/i] But the other part of her wanted to grip tighter. Somewhere in the delirium of the painkillers, a part of her wondered if he would tell a soul if she twisted his face to hers and pressed her lips against his. I would’ve kept you safe. Are my lips warm as the rest of me, Anderson?
And for a half-blurry second her hand started to, but she stopped. The cold knot in her stomach pulled her back. Che would be proud, wouldn’t he? Lying to the boy one minute and kissing him the next?
Lynn pulled back, blood thundering in her head. I’ll fuck it up, Anderson. I’ll fuck it up. Why can’t you just fucking go.
Just one thing. The others swam into her mind. Amelia and Eli and Keaton. She hoped they’d made it. She hoped they got off the Promise. Some people could make it out.
It was just that Lynn was never going to be one of them.
Some time passed, and eventually everyone’s phone dinged- the same group chat that had been used on Homecoming night.
Archie Anderson: Hey, Lynn and I need everyone to meet up. Where Keaton said they should spill flour on the floor. Ask Keaton if you don't know where that is and don't see any of us on the way.”