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He’s been holding her hand the entire way, like a child's, and she decides she resents it.

(The relief makes her light-headed almost. He’s alive. Somehow. Impossibly. He’s alive. She resents that too, irrationally enough. She's happy that he’s alive, of course, she’s not a monster, but she doesn't want to kiss him to make sure. She does't never want to let go. She does not.

Double negatives make an affirmative, her father had taught her when she was young, but her father was also an engineer, and her father is also dead, and she's studied enough physics on her own to know that negative charges repel. Only opposites attract, and she's not a mirror image. Not a metaphor, either. She doesn't want to kiss him.)

She pulls her hand out of his the first moment she gets the chance to, when they’re far away enough. She meant to do that a long time ago, but in the dark, she can barely make out his silhouette, can recognize him only through the touch, and she’s stubborn, not stupid.

“I didn’t need to be saved,” is the first thing she says, after, voice hoarse. Her throat hurts. She can't remember screaming,though, only the silence.

He turns around then, hand still caught mid-air, where she'd left it behind, and in moments it's a weapon, as he gives her a two-fingered mock salute and says: “of course you didn’t.”

 

 

-

 

 

The shelter is uncomfortable, at best. A rough hewn cave in the middle of nowhere, as far as she can tell. But it's still better than the alternative.

It looks inhabited, like he's been here a while, the dust on the ground nearly settled, a bottle of Moonshine in the corner- because, of course, that makes sense, odd looking leaves and berries that there's no way she's touching because he's the kind of guy who stays in battle with no armor, and she's not sure he was ever in Earth Skills at all.

It’s crazy, she knows, she but she doesn’t want to ask him how he found her. How he’s alive. How he got away. How long he's been here. Why his bones aren’t charred dust in the place she’d labelled home somewhere deep inside the most stupidly optimistic part of her mind, because apparently, after everything, she's still not smart enough to know better.

She doesn’t want to ask that other question either, doesn’t want to think about it at all. Somewhere along the way, she became the avoiding.

Her hand itches for a piece of lead. A blank canvas is forgetfulness. She read that somewhere, long ago.

“I don’t know where Finn is.”

“I didn’t ask,” she snaps. As long as she doesn’t say it out loud, it’s not true.

“I know,” he says, “I answered anyway.”

(Here's what she also doesn't want to know: why she took his hand back there. Ran when he said run. Out into the night. Just his hand and the penetrating darkness and blind trust.)

 

 

-

 

 

“We left Monty behind,” she says, the panic rising in her throat. She doesn’t leave people behind. Because that’s easy to get in the habit of. Running is easy to get into the habit of, “Monty, and— we don't even know who else. Did you even do a perimeter sweep? How did we reach Mount Weather? They could all be—”

“We need a battle plan,” is all he answers, interrupting, eyes still roving the area. They need more wood for the fire. She inadvertently thinks of the dropship, thinks of him, a door she closed. And shivers. 

She feels cold from the inside, frozen nearly, numb to the point of pain. Which would be ironic, if she were in the mood for irony.

“I thought you were dead,” she says, dully, staring into the fire she can barely feel, “I spent days thinking you were dead.”

He doesn’t get to waltz in here, hair all in place, and rescue her from the tower like the princess he always makes her out to be. He doesn’t get to reach inside her and make her feel like someone messed up her nerves and all her blood is flowing wrong somehow. Dammit, he doesn't get to do any of this. He has no fucking right. They're in this together, and she doesn't need to be saved.

When she looks up, he’s looking straight at her, in a way that makes her want to look back down to avoid it, but damned if she does that. Damned if she does.

“I’m not,” he says quietly, holding her gaze, “I’m not dead.”

She nods, once, wraps her arms around herself tighter.

 

 

-

 

 

The Moonshine hits her head too hard, and it’s a pity she only realizes it when she’s already on top of him, and he can probably feel the pulse at the base of her neck hammering under his tongue.

She hopes to god he doesn’t keep count, because she can lie with words, with omissions, but she can’t lie with numbers.

 

 

-

 

 

The suffocating white noise of the room she'd been captive in, every moment of exhaustion, of fear, translates into this. The feeling almost physical in its intensity. She feels free. Wild, even. She can be fun.

She doesn't realize she's said it out loud till he laughs softly, and his voice is slurred when he next speaks, even though she can tell he tries to hide it, “I think I’m living Finn’s sex life out for him. Raven, first, now you. Maybe I should be paying the guy.”

She thinks she would have been a lot more phased before, when she didn't know him, when she'd just met him and bought everything he was selling. She knows better now. Thinks she almost knows him now. Can read between the lines, beneath the act. Maybe he can too, with her. The thought is terrifying. She doesn't even know who she is beneath the pretense anymore.

“Finn is not dead,” the alcohol softens his consonants almost to a whisper, almost to comfort, “I promise you that.”

She nearly says something then, something like: you can’t promise me that, but he’s mostly speaking to himself, and she doesn’t interrupt.

Maybe it should have pulled her out of the moment, the fact that he knows this is mostly about Finn, the fact that he and Raven— but she can’t bring herself to move away from the heat. He’s nearly feverish, and she's too cold.

I'm sorry, he mouths against her skin, and she doesn't know what for, and maybe he doesn't either. He's drunk. But she's drunk too, so it's fine. Sobriety doesn't make for a good enough excuse. They both know that.

 

 

-

 

 

I need you, she almost says, when his hand is splayed across her stomach and she can feel the ridges on his hands like a gut-punch, leaving her winded, breathless.

She's said them too often, those words, she's beginning to realize, because they're becoming frighteningly easy to say.

This is one of the biggest mistakes she’s yet made— and god knows she’s made plenty, but she thinks she might freeze otherwise, and she won’t move away. She’s always been a little bit selfish, always a little unforgiving, and she can’t forgive him the racing of her heartbeat, can’t forgive him for almost dying. Can't forgive him the decisions she has to make, that he has to make, because they're the leaders, for no rhyme or reason. Can't forgive him for almost leaving her to go through it alone. Can't forgive him the constant need to touch him to make sure he's still there.

She clinically catalogues the bruises on his skin under her hands, instead. Too many of them, is her final count. A blank canvas is forgetfulness, but he's too filled in already. She doesn't have a pencil, anyway.

 

 

 

-

 

 

She tries to pretend he's Finn, once. Eyes tightly shut, her back half-arched, the rough floor indenting itself in her skin, and this should be easy. She loves Finn.

But his body's all wrong. He's taller, his planes are different, his angles unfamiliar. And she can't. No matter how hard she tries. How much she wants to.

She won't tell him that though.

(He might know anyway, she realizes, when it's his back to the ground in the next second, and when he looks up next, it's through a half-lidded gaze she can't read.

She still won't tell him, though.)

 

 

-

 

 

“Rise and shine, princess,” he’s avoiding her eyes, but that’s okay because otherwise she’d have to avoid his and she’s too tired for that, “we’re on a rescue mission. No man left behind.”

He’s already dressed, his face no longer unnaturally aflush. He looks a little paler, but alive. Definitely alive. Sort of the way she feels.

Every part of her body aches, and she thinks she might have cut herself somewhere the night before; maybe on the uneven ground, maybe on his sharp edges. But, at the very least, she’s not numb anymore, not cold any longer; which, she’d imagine, is as good an ending as any.

(Here's the truth: she resents the hope too. Resents feeling eighteen whenever he looks at her. Because he's not eighteen. He's old enough to know better, and still looks at her that way. Like she can fix things. Make the right decisions when she doesn't want to. Lead when she doesn't know how. And she's young enough to believe it when he does.)

She stands up.