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Leaving Town Alive

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After the big reset...and they all should've known that was coming, shouldn't they? Should've known that it would all be undone, all the sacrifice, all the bleeding, all the good and bad. Should've known it would all get sent right back to the beginning. That was the way it was always doomed to be, in their lives. Nothing permanent, nothing real. Just getting shattered into fragments and put back together again, over and over, and wondering why the edges were all chipped away and didn't fit so well anymore.

(After the big reset, among other things, it's hard to keep to a linear thought, it's hard to think things in a steady order without drifting away into a dozen other possibilities that might or might not have happened already and been cast away by restless, childish Powers That Be being careless with their toys.)

After. After. They wander. They forget. Not because they've really forgotten, not because anything else has been taken out of their brains--no, no, it's all there, too much of it is there, too much to put up with, and that's why they forget it. They push it down and push it back and they go their separate ways, roaming without a purpose, without a future or present and with too many pasts.

He finds her again in New Mexico, in Taos. She's working in one of the little shops, selling bright-colored jewelry that part of his mind insists must be magic charms and another part knows is just stone and wire, nothing special, that she drains all the magic away with her fingertips to keep anyone else from wandering into things they didn't expect and don't understand. They can't stop being protectors, no matter how hard they try to leave it all behind. He touches the scars on his neck, his wrists, his chest before he steps into the shop. Can't leave a calling behind. It rides with you.

She looks up just as he crosses the threshold, not a trace of surprise in her eyes. "Hello."

"Hi." Everything he's forgotten and denied is pushing up at him inside his head, trying to break through, threatening to knock him to his knees. He doesn't want any of it back, he just wants to start over again out here. Meet her all over again and get to know her and fall in love.

Except it's not the first time, and he can't really pretend it is, because he's looking into her eyes and he does know her. He does love her. Still. Always.

"Can I help you find something?" she asks, and her face is still carefully, neutrally pleasant, retail-blank, but her eyes. She never was able to keep anything out of her eyes. And there's just the slightest catch in her voice, barely enough to hear, so very easy to overlook or to lose.

He doesn't want to lose anything else.

"No," he says. "No, I think I've found it."

She laughs, and it's perfect. "Me too."

"Didn't even realize I was looking."

She steps out from behind the counter. "You want to get out of here?"

He shakes his head and steps forward, and she meets him halfway, catching his hand. "I want to stay."