They pass over the border from Canada into the States around dinner time; they pass through a fast-food drive-through on the American side and have yet another meal consisting only of double cheeseburgers. Nick's been in the driver's seat since sunrise. The last thing they need is to attract the attention of the cops, and a fourteen-year-old driving a car during the day isn't exactly inconspicuous, even if she does claim to be able to pass for sixteen. So Cassie spends most of the time in the passenger seat drawing in her sketchbook or flipping through the complete works of Alan Moore. Every hour or so they lose reception of the radio station they've been listening to and she spends a minute finding a decent station playing something other than country music. Oh, America the beautiful. Home sweet home--yet so alien and foreboding to her returned native children.
It's dusk--about nine-thirty, since it's summer--when they stop at a Holiday Inn in southern "upstate" New York. They pay for their room in cash, then immediately retire to it, Nick yawning and immediately stripping down to his boxers as soon as Cassie closes the door behind her. Cassie unfastens her bra from underneath her t-shirt, then kicks off her boots and shimmies out of her skirt. They had abandoned all need for pointless modesty when they were still in Hong Kong, with Cassie doing her best (and, if she is honest with herself, mostly failing) to try to not be to insulted or disappointed by Nick's seeming sexless indifference to her adolescent body.
"Night, Cassie," Nick says, his voice seeped with fatigue.
"Good night," Cassie returns. She turns out the lights, and they each slide into their respective (separate) beds.
It's not long before she can hear the shift in Nick's breathing as he passes out from sheer exhaustion almost immediately, but still she waits almost a half-hour before slipping out of her bed, quietly slipping her skirt back on and pulling on her boots, then making her way to the door and exiting the room.
She follows the series of images which pass before her eyes as she makes her way, under cover of darkness, to a liquor store about a quarter-mile from their motel. She lurks in the shadows, watches as figures pass through the threshold of the store, illuminated by flickering neon light. A young woman exits holding a brown bag filled with a couple of glass bottles; two minutes later an African-American man, in his seventies maybe, walks out, clutching a couple of lottery tickets.
No one else passes in or out for about fifteen minutes, when finally a car pulls up, a black '91 Ford with its left headlight smashed in, and a white man, middle-aged, steps out. She looks closer, and she sees the flash of an image: the man handing her a bottle, she handing him cash.
"Sir?" she asks the man, stepping into the light and holding up a twenty-dollar bill. "Do you think you could get a fifth of vodka for me?"
The man examines her, the look he gives her slightly more hungry than she'd like (she wonders if he can tell she's not wearing a bra, but she's a precognitive, not a telepath)--but only slightly, as it's reassuring that, yes, she can be desirable, if only to the slightly-ragged looking men who buy beer at liquor stores past 10pm, and because she's confident she could kick his ass even without the handgun in her purse, without screaming rape if it came to that. But it doesn't; she can see a gold band on his ring finger, and his voice is more kind than lecherous when he says, "Now what would a pretty young girl like you want with vodka at this hour, miss?"
She simply pulls out three more twenties, flashing them at the man. It's an exorbitant retainer just for someone to buy her booze (there's not a cop in sight, and she's learned how to look), and they can ill-afford the expense, but he's her only option right now, and she needs the alcohol--although whether to help her to see more clearly or to erase the pain of what she's already seen, she's not quite sure. Both. Neither.
The man looks at the four bills in her hand, and it's a different hunger which fills his eyes now, one which is either more or less primal depending on who you ask. He takes one of the twenties when she hands it to him, and when he emerges from the store ten minutes later with the bottle of vodka and a case of beer, she trades him the other three twenties for the bottle.
His last look at her is one of pity and concern. "You be careful with that now, miss, okay?" he says and, at her obligatory nod of assent, turns around and puts his beer in his car, his duty to her discharged.
She slips the bottle into her purse, then walks back to the hotel, lets herself into their room. She lets her eyes acclimate to the darkness of the room until she can see the outlines of the two beds and four walls, then walks into the bathroom. Once she's shut the door behind her as silently as she can, she turns the light on, its brightness, reflected by the white surfaces of the room's tile and porcelain, suddenly accosting her, blinding.
She sits down on the toilet, pulls out her sketchbook from her purse, flips it open to a certain page. There they are, inexpertly rendered in neon gel ink, their bodies twisted--broken?--and entangled, their mouths open as if desperately gasping for breath. There's no blood, not like there usually is when she draws their deaths. She's not sure what to make of that.
There they are, their names floating in all capital letters above their heads: "Me. Kira. Nick."
She's drawn their deaths often enough that that's not what bothers her, even though she's self-aware enough to recognize just how morbid and fucked-up that fact is. No, if she's honest with herself, it's Kira's presence which bothers her the most, Kira who they haven't seen since HK, Kira who got onto a Division plane with another Pusher and a picture in an envelope and they don't know if she's remembered who she really is or forgotten completely, despite Cassie's best attempts to scry.
And now that she'd given up looking, when Cassie's gotten comfortable with just the duo of herself and Nick, when they've travelled halfway across the world in their quest to find Cassie's mother, here Kira is again in Cassie's visions, her body bent and twisted as it lies between Nick's and Cassie's. She resents the separation; with her mother still captive in some Division facility somewhere, Nick has become her whole world now, and she doesn't want to have to share, not even in death.
She takes the vodka and downs half of the bottle straight in three quick gulps, liquid fire against her tongue and throat. Even as her face involuntarily reconfigures itself into a disgusted grimace, there's something in the taste which is familiar, comforting.
It doesn't take long for the alcohol to reach her blood, or the blood her brain.
She concentrates, her purchase on the reality of the here and now deliberately loosed to allow her to better focus on the yet-to-come. The future is hazy, unclear, grey, but she tries to will it into sharpness, into clear lines and vivid colors. The blues and the greens come first, emerging from the greys, then the yellows. The reds never do come, but that's okay, because she can see clearly enough now to know why there is no blood.
--hands pushing up Kira's dress past her waist, over her head, revealing--
Cassie blinks. She knows Nick's hands, has memorized every part of his body (well, okay, not every part) so she can recognize him in her visions. The hands in her vision are not Nick's; instead they are smaller, paler, less calloused. The nails are painted with nail polish.
Cassie holds up her hand in front of her, the palm facing away from her. Every detail is a perfect match, down to the exact shade of her polish.
--reaches for the ribbon in Cassie's hair, tugging it free, and--
Cassie has to force herself to remember to breathe: Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale. Her heart is beating so fast that she suddenly wonders if this, the vodka, was all a good idea, but she doesn't see any images of cardiac arrest in her future, only--
--lips, pressed against Kira's breast, whispering--
She pulls her pens out of her purse, flips to the first empty page in her sketchbook and begins to draw, furiously, starting with the blues, then greens: the curve of Kira's back, the shape of her own bared breasts, Nick's hands as they explore, sense, touch.
--by Nick, undressing her, as Kira's mouth trails behind leaving kiss after kiss on the bared--
She fills four different pages of her sketchbook with amateur pornography before throwing it aside. Her hand fumbles--its functioning impaired by the alcohol (no wonder she's a shit artist)--to find its way under her skirt, past her panties.
--naked, all three of them, as six hands--
She has to keep silent as she works in order to not wake Nick, keep her breathing regular even as she wants to gasp desperately for air, not cry out with a primal scream of rage or joy or confusion or orgasm.
--three mouths, not fitting together as two would do, the kiss unstable, ever dynamic, always--
Even when sober self-love is something which is still new to her, that she has not yet mastered (and living on the move with Nick doesn't provide her many opportunities to practice), but the vision, aided by the vodka, was intense and vivid enough that she's already teetering at the point where it doesn't take very much to push her over into ecstasy. She bites her lower lip to keep from making noise as her body tenses one last time before giving in to utter relaxation. She licks her lips and she can taste that she's drawn blood.
She puts the vodka and sketchbook and pens back in her purse, then turns off the bathroom light, opens the door, and walks (trying for a straight line, achieving a zigzag) back to her bed, where she once again kicks off her boots and shimmies out of her skirt before slipping under the covers and passing out.