She doesn’t really remember, not really, but sometimes just before she wakes, or a fever breaks, there are snapshots: blood glinting on her mother's silver necklace, her father's hand still reaching for her, fingers jerking.
Otherwise her memories are populated with poisoned air and frost, hunger and pain, gore under ragged fingernails. Before was a dream she had no business having, not if she wanted to live.
And Jesse had wanted to live, fiercely, unquestioningly.
In a way, the first time had been easy. Simple. Success was drawing one more breath, living one more day, overcoming one more sickness, finding one more mouthful to eat, one more cup of water to drink.
She’d had to fight and bleed just to have something to lose, and in a way that had been enough. It won’t be enough this time and inside, in the hollow of her chest, she knows she can’t do it again.
Turns out, after everything, she's not ready for the end of the world.
She resists the urge to raise a finger to the thick scar at her hairline. It's long healed over now, but when she forgets herself it hurts in ways she isn’t ready for. Since Derek took his shot, she’s been shot twice, broken ribs and cracked bones, bled, cried and then bowed hard against the bed when stolen drugs didn’t touch the pain.
And nothing has hurt like that scar.
It’s pathetic and she hates it. Hates Derek, hates Riley, hates Connor, hates the machine. Hates herself. Hates that she was ready to die, hates that she lived, hates that she’s not ready for it any more, hates-
Just hates. Hates that she hates. Hates that anger won’t be enough.
Sarah looks up from the schematics she’s been studying for the last hour, as if they’ll tell her anything more than they did yesterday, or the day before that. “What’s funny?”
“What isn’t?” Jesse shrugs and then gestures at their surroundings.
Sarah nods, accepts the truth of it. Connor rolls his eyes; when she stands, she smiles brightly, just for him.
Connor raises an eyebrow. “Going somewhere, Flores?”
He calls her Flores and so does everyone else, except Sarah, but Flores isn't her name. Not without a Commander before it, not without a mission. She has no intention of telling him that.
“Maybe I’ll go see a movie.” She bares her teeth and pretends it’s a grin. “New Batman out, yeah?”
She’s not sure what she’s expecting, but it’s not a smile – a real smile, eyes glittering with morbid amusement. “Sounds good, maybe I’ll come.”
“Sure,” she nods. “Afterwards we can check out that Italian place.”
He makes as if to stand from his seat by the riveted door. “It’s a date.”
“I want to go,” says Savannah’s small voice. “Can I go?” She looks at Ellison.
Ellison narrows his eyes at them both and doesn’t try to disguise contempt; it’s gone when he smiles down at the little girl. “Not today, Savannah. They’re not going anywhere, they’re just … "
“Just playing,” John says defensively. “Like Make Believe.”
“We’re done playing,” Jesse says, and sits back down on the cot.
They’re all done playing, because outside this bunker on the edge of nowhere, the world is burning.
She’s not ready to lose, but she's losing just the same.