his words, to me, a spell
"You'll be fine, peanut. Just stay here. I'll see you in the morning."
Every night, the same words. Parker could mouth them along with Archie now, and sometimes said them to herself under her breath, a lullaby to send herself off to sleep.
She didn't know where he went every night; she wanted to but every night, Archie said those words, like they were a magic spell, and it must have worked—she was just fine.
But curiosity gnawed at her from the inside, and the night she disobeyed was just like any other.
They had gone on an adventure to a bank, and Parker squeezed up through a window, pressing her tummy against the cool metal of a tiny girl-sized shaft, and clambered back with money pushed between her hands. She liked how money felt, flush against her skin. It was comforting because it never changed. It was comforting because Archie's face would always stretch into a smile, and he would call her my girl , and peanut , and sometimes he would ruffle her hair.
That night he spoke the words, and Parker tried really hard to pretend it was just another night.
But he left, and she followed. She climbed out of a window because it didn't occur to her to try the door. She was nothing but a shadow in the night. She knew he hadn't seen her because his face didn't tense like when she made a mistake in training.
Eventually Archie stopped in front of a house. Parker was confused. Houses rarely had anything interesting to steal. Archie didn't look for a weak entrance, or to see if there was any camera surveillance. He pulled something shiny out of his pocket - a key.
Archie had to be stealing something amazing. Parker couldn't resist. She padded closer, ducking under the glow of the house's windows and shimmying up the drain pipe, peering in each window.
She found Archie on the second floor. He didn't see her. There were two girls asleep in bed cuddling bears. Archie stepped into the room. Parker held her breath. Bunny was an excellent companion, but maybe he had gone to this trouble to steal her a new bear? Archie was wonderful, wonderful -
Except he didn't. He sat down next to one of the girls. He bent down. He kissed her on the cheek. The girl in the bed stretched and turned to him. She was the prettiest thing Parker had ever seen.
"Daddy," the girl breathed.
A smile spread onto Archie's face. Parker was horrified. What had this girl managed to steal to make him smile so easily?
"Good night, peanut," Archie said to the girl.
Parker froze. He'd seen her and she was going to be in so much trouble.
Except he hadn't. He meant the girl. Archie's daughter. His real one. And she was his peanut too. She was his real peanut. Parker was just his... She didn't know the word. Archie turned then, across to the other girl who was waking up; Parker reacted instinctively. She slid away and ran back to her hideout, not wanting to chance being caught.
Parker shimmied in through her window, grabbed Bunny, and sat on her bed, and tried her best to think, even though Archie had said it wasn't her forte.
Archie had told her to stay and she disobeyed. So was this funny feeling her fault? Except... wasn't this his fault? He lied to her when he called her peanut, as if she was something special to him. He lied to her, and nothing was going to be the same again.
Dawn came, and she was still thinking. What did she have left? Bunny, breakfast... and the smooth slide of money against her skin. She still liked Archie. She could never pay him back for taking her under his wing. She would be forever indebted to him. She should run. But she would stay. She would use him as he used her. She would like him, because she couldn't help that, and she knew whenever he called her, she would come. Like everything he said was a magic spell.
But she knew the truth now, and it would never go away and it could never be unlearned. Spells didn't have to mean someone liked you the best.
Spells didn't have to be true to work.
PLAUSIBLE BUT OUTRAGEOUS CHALLENGE
Fact (from lmx_v3point3): Eliot has travelled with the Doctor (but don't tell Hardison!)
Hardison always used to say Doctor Who this, Doctor Who that, and Eliot never connected, because to him, he was never Doctor Anything. He was always just
the Doctor .
He only connects when Hardison forces them all to see the first episode from the reboot, whatever that means. He doesn't recognise 'The Doctor', but he knows the name, and he recognises the telltale awooooooshawoooosh , and the bright blue of the TARDIS in its police box form.
Eliot forces himself to stop fidgeting. He grinds his teeth together, because that's better than screaming swear words, and he waits patiently til the end of the episode, desperate for the credits. But of course Hardison torrented the damn thing, so the credits aren't on. And of course everyone lets Hardison keep playing the episodes, and playing the episodes, and as far as Eliot can tell only one of the stories actually gives the Doctor some justice for how kickass awesome he is.
Eliot stalks off as casually as he can, and legs it for his apartment. He yanks out his laptop, a weighty lump that Hardison would roll his eyes at, and pushes in a dongle and connects to the internet.
Eliot loads up IMDB and scrolls to the credits. The creator's name is there in blue and underlined:
Russell T Davies.
Eliot's pissed . The Doctor mentioned Russell once or twice as this overly enthusiastic dude who kept prodding buttons on the console without knowing what they did. (To be fair, the Doctor didn't seem to know how to operate it right either.) Eliot feels a little queasy. Of course Russell was the kind of dick to use his experience with the Doctor to make money. Eliot cracks his knuckles and considers his options. He owes the Doctor for sure, most of humanity does. He closes his eyes and starts to plot. He needs to find some way to punish Russell for monetising the miraculous gift of being a Companion. He opens his eyes and grins.
He's going to be their new client. And Hardison's going to be so impressed. The guy who wrote the decent episode of the Doctor was this dude called Stephen Moffat. So Eliot's going to make sure Doctor Who was given to the decent writer dude instead, however long it takes.
All right, Hardison, Eliot thinks, with a grin. Let's go steal Doctor Who.
I'm sat in the hospital waiting room.
Nate is talking to a doctor. I know that tone of his. I can see what he's saying in the tense, long line of his back. I know the look of my husband in denial.
It's strange the things you remember at times like these.
What I remember now: seeing Nate in that pose before, pouring himself a drink after another insurance job gone well, and that tension , strong and thick and undefeatable which told me clearly it was another job where he ran into her .
Nate thinks I don't know about her. He doesn't think I know there's another woman in his job, one he crosses path with maybe once a year, and I know each time. I know each and every time he's seen her. He changes, goes tense, misses my eyes for the first few days he's home.
I know he hasn't cheated on me physically, because that's how he's wired. It would take hell on earth for him to change.
I know my husband, and he knows me.
Maybe he can tell me if this hand belongs to me. The one writing in this journal. Because it looks like mine, and I can feel the ridges of the pen against my fingers, but surely my hand can't be writing this nonsensical stuff, words that have no place in these circumstances, thoughts that have strayed so beyond the pale.
Is it my hand? Is it my hand shaping the letters to today's hateful truth: Sam is dead?
I wrote it as a question. It's not a question. It's never going to be a question. It's going to be fact; permanent ink, indivisible by zero, unchangeable, permanent fact .
Sam is dead.
Sam is dead .
I thought writing it down would let it sink in.
Sam is dead, Sam is dead, Sam is dead-
It's not helping.
Seeing it written down makes it seem even more nonsensical, even more strange, like when you write down a word, spell it correctly, and a hundred times later the word looks wrong, and you stare at it for hours, convinced you've spelled it wrong. The shape of the letters seem bizarre and disconnected, and Sam will never know that feeling-
No, that sounds bizarre too.
Sam is dead.
My beautiful boy is dead.
My Sam is dead.
And I am sat in a hospital waiting room, watching a stranger's hands write those words in my handwriting, watching my husband cement his feet in his own lonely little island of denial, and I am alone.
I want to close my eyes. I want to sleep forever. I am a masochist at heart: I will keep my eyes wide open. I will stand vigil to a world my boy can never see. I will observe a world my Sam will never experience. I will live in his stead, a worthless stand-in. I will do the things he cannot.
I will watch my husband change.
I've known it forever: It would take hell on earth for my husband to change.
And hell is a hospital waiting room, where Sam is dead, and Sam is gone.
HALLOWEEN: SCENE FROM THE CUTTING ROOM FLOOR
Parker doesn't want to go back to join the others directly after saying goodbye to Archie.
Nate can tell without her saying anything. Her steps are slow, when normally he has to hurry a little to match her pace. She's suppressing sighs every now and again with a wrinkle in the line of her mouth, her lips pressed as tight as a locked safe door. She's tense, like she's fighting hard not to look back.
But she's proud. Too proud to say anything. So Nate steps in for her, and cites a desire for caffeine that he doesn't really have. Parker agrees too quickly - another sign of her reluctance to join the others - and he buys her a hot chocolate from a street vendor so she doesn't steal it out of habit, and they find a bench to perch on for a while.
"I thought you were going to be stuck in that building until Halloween," Nate says as a vague opener.
Parker blows on her hot chocolate, inhales the rich, dreamy smell and rolls her eyes at him. "That's months away, silly," she tells him.
"You're more of a Christmas girl, though."
She smiles at him conspiratorially, takes a sip of her drink and makes a sound of pleasure Nate really doesn't think he should be hearing her make. Ever.
"I don't like Halloween," Parker admits. "It was always too easy to steal when people were distracted by kids in costumes begging for candy at their front door. Archie used to-" She freezes, and then relaxes, looking off into the distance. As if giving herself permission to speak it if she's not looking at Nate. "Archie used to send me off and take his girls trick or treating. I like money more than candy," she finishes, defensively.
Nate looks at her from the corner of his eye. Her back is straight and she is defiant, like she is daring him to criticise her childhood. He's mostly thinking about Sam, and how Maggie had told him - when he got sick - that when Sam got better, he would, they would-
"Did you never feel like you... missed out?" The words nearly stick in his throat, like sweet gummy Halloween candy.
"How do you miss something you never had?" Parker says.
"Sometimes you sound like a wise old woman."
"Only sometimes ?" Parker asks archly, pretending to be offended - her quick flash of a smile gives the pretence away. Nate shrugs, and her expression levels into something more serious. "Don't be sad for me, though. It was fun. Maybe not the traditional brand of Halloween fun, but... I wouldn't change a thing."
Nate just looks at her. He can't force a smile, but he feels less tense over the idea of her, small and alone, without a proper family.
"It's drafty here," Parker says, clamping the plastic cup over her drink. "Let's get a move on." She's impatient, and her whims are still childish; Nate still finds himself wanting to please her.
He rises to his feet."All right."
She smiles like she's not sad at all and then looks at him seriously. "Archie was a decent father figure."
"Good," Nate says, nodding once. It's all he needed to hear.
"You're better," she adds, before spinning away. He watches her go, swallows the lump in his throat, and follows.
DANCE FIC CHALLENGE
pay attention to the open sky
Hardison's danced with Parker twice now. Once while she dangled from the ceiling, so light in his arms he thought he was imagining her, and once while she stumbled around, weighed down with ball bearings and worry about trust.
He thought both times were special. Both times had emotion spun so tightly around his spine that he played the dances over and over in his mind on nights he couldn't sleep, her small body under his hands, her tumble of blonde hair on his shoulder. It's the small details he remembers best. The big picture's too amazing for him to look at without sunglasses.
He's seen her at work, and that's like dancing too; he's seen her spin around, stealing while dancing. He's seen her duck and dive and twist her body into graceful shapes and impossible angles. Parker's a dancer at heart, and Hardison has moves, but nothing like her.
Hardison has danced with her twice. Two dances to win her.
He loses her in one.
It's something he should have seen coming. Eliot is the only person in the world more comfortable with his body than Parker. Hardison feels like a stranger in his own skin; he's never been able to move his limbs the way he wants to. It's his mind that holds all his magic power.
The con had seemed simple enough. A ball, a dress, a frustrated mistress and a stolen diamond necklace. It was glamorous. Hardison used the webcam of his netbook to sneak a picture of Parker in her finery. She wore a red ballgown like she was born to the high life.
Eliot was in a tux. Hardison bristled with jealousy, tempered himself with the realisation Eliot hated wearing the 'monkey suit', and got on with his part of the job—surveillance, of course.
He was hunched over the monitors in Lucille when it happened. To distract the Mark, Eliot took Parker's hands, and Hardison could hear the music clearly over the feed and the earbuds, better than stereo. The cameras weren't so clear, but they were clear enough; Eliot's hands on Parker's small waist, the light in his eyes, and the smile on her face.
By the end of the waltz, Parker and Eliot were staring at each other like they were the loot at the end of the Grifting rainbow, and Hardison was left clutching his mouse, and reliving high school.
He'll never dance again in his life. He has moves, but nothing of Parker's grace.
He has nothing of Parker at all.
Sophie Devereaux can't cook.
It's a secret she's been hiding her whole life. As soon as she gets into a kitchen, things happen. Bad things. Like the time she made toast and gained her first scar behind her left knee. Or the time she had to have the third finger on her left hand reattached when she overslept and missed the free breakfast at college.
And it was probably best not to mention Poland, pierogies or golabki anywhere in a five mile radius of her, because that event was still having repercussions.
Tara Cole was one of the few people in the world who knew the truth, and that's because Tara's skull scar was due to the fact that Tara refused to believe someone was completely incapable of cooking and made Sophie cook them lunch.
Tara still couldn't stomach eggs properly.
So of course the day comes when Sophie has to cook dinner for herself. The team has left her on her own in Nate's apartment with a broken leg. Sophie told them they could leave her, but she obviously hadn't quite thought things through, especially when she finds herself face to face with Nate's fridge, leaning on a crutch, and finding it utterly devoid of leftovers.
How does a bachelor survive without leftovers in his fridge?
Sophie is appalled. Still, Nate has vegetables and eggs and cheese. She can make something with that, right? Nate has some recipe books, and Sophie finds a recipe for omelettes. It looks pretty easy.
The first step is to heat up a frying pan and a spoonful of oil. So far, so very easy. Sophie balances the pan on the hob, figures out with ten minutes and a handful of curse words how to turn it on, and leaves the pan on the heat while she reaches for the oil.
It isn't her fault that her sleeve catches fire as she leans over. How was she supposed to know the cooker's blue fire was like regular fire, but hotter? She yanks her top off, because that's easier than putting out the fire, and she drops it to the ground to stomp on it with her good leg.
Well, that's the intention. Except the fire has other ideas, and. Well. The floor is sort of way more flammable than Sophie thought it was going to be. And when her back was turned, the oil sort of tips into the pan and set that on fire too.
Thankfully the bar had very, very sensitive detection equipment for fires, seeing as all that alcohol made it very flammable, and only half of Nate's apartment burns down before the others get back. Sophie hears Nate before she sees him, even above her smoky coughing, because he's shouting, and when he finds her—perched in the back of an ambulance—he just keeps shouting, which isn't fair. Well, she'd burned down part of his apartment, but the firemen have already assured her the building is still secure and most of the damage is superficial.
Sophie'll pay for it to be fixed again ASAP; Nate doesn't need to be socross at her.
"Sophie, what happened ?" Nate asks, his voice calm now. "Did someone attack? Was there a fault?"
Sophie stares. He'd been shouting. Hadn't he known what had happened? He didn't sound like he did. So why had he been shouting at her?
"I thought you were dead ," Nate says, shaking her shoulders, looking into her eyes then so very seriously, and Sophie flushes.
Apparently he's just pissed off at the idea of her being hurt.
"No," Sophie says, stunned into truth, "just hungry."
Nate's face is a picture , and Sophie finds herself telling him the truth, and how she normally Grifts her food, and how she didn't think cooking would be so hard, but things just kept catching fire, and she's sorry, and-
All right, now Nate's laughing at her. She can't take him—shouting, and then calm, and then laughing, it makes no sense - except he pulls her to him, and he's shaking, and his cheek is wet against her hair, and Sophie thinks then she finally understands.
She holds onto him tightly in return, and buries her smile, because she shouldn't really be finding so much to smile about in face of one of her biggest failures nearly burning down their headquarters, but she can't help the smile, so she hides it in his shoulder and forgets about everything else but him. It's probably not the best time to mention she's still hungry.
Eliot holds his line
Warning: Um, violence? Zombie apocalypse?
They were advancing. Hundreds of them. How did you fight an enemy that didn't lie down, that would never lie down?
His panic was ridiculous. He'd fought a thousand human enemies before. Eliot Spencer was the most feared fighter in four out of the seven continents. He shouldn't be nervous, but that's the only thing he feels. Nerves. Like he's going to mess up, and let everyone down.
He's sweating, and he can't hold onto his weapon. The scythe slips out of his grasp, knocking loudly on the ground.
Hardison flickers an annoyed glance at him, and then Hardison frowns. Eliot touches his own face. His own fear must be showing. He can't do this, he can't , he's not good enough, and he's turning to do something, to go?, to be somewhere else and a hand stops him.
Firm on his chest. Hard as a rock. Eliot can feel the warmth of Nate's hand before he looks up to see Nate's face, hard and focused.
"I-" Eliot starts.
"You're not a coward," Nate says, under his breath. He fixes Eliot with a glare, and he's breathing hard - there's no one who isn't affected by the terror of Boston's bloodstained streets. "You're going to turn around, and you're going to hold the line . If one of these gets through, Parker is screwed, Sophie is screwed; we're all screwed. One of those scientists get bitten and our best hopes are lost. I know you can do this."
Eliot swallows. Nate picks up Eliot's scythe and pushes the handle into Eliot hard, pushing him. "Hold the line," Nate says, barking it louder, cocking his weapon and pointing it towards the lines of shambling undead. "As we speak, two of my best people are protecting the scientists of Verdagra. They will make a cure in time, if we can hold these things off. So that's what we're going to do. We hold the line and we fight til the end, whether it's ours or theirs. What do we do?"
There's disquiet amongst the men, and it makes so much sense to Eliot, because, well, if he's scared, what are the non-fighters going to be feeling? He straightens a little. He has to give some of himself to them. He has to fake a bravery he doesn't feel. There's no one else but him.
It's what gives him the strength to yell, "Hold the line!"
His cry is taken up along the line. "HOLD THE LINE! HOLD THE LINE! HOLD THE LINE!"
The noise gets the attention of the zombies, and they start to charge.
Eliot grips his weapon tight, swallows his fear whole, and fights.
Inspiration: THE PINEAPPLE
Warning: I DON'T EVEN KNOW, GUYS. CRACK?
So, sometimes Sophie has this thing where occasionally, when she's very stressed, or in the middle of making bilberry jam, she turns into a pineapple.
It's not painful, it's more of a freakish inconvenience, and because it's a secret, once she committed what she thinks might be cannibalism - she could hardly deny Eliot's pie and tell him the real reason . Eliot sulked if people didn't eat his pie. Possible cannibalism was a much better alternative than Eliot sulking.
Sophie's managed to get away with people not finding out about her secret. She meditates, which lowers her stress level, and she tells everyone she has a bilberry allergy (why, oh why didn't she add pineapple into that lie?) and so she's mostly gotten away with it.
Until the middle of a con when some people are chasing her, and she can feel it happen. The world goes yellow behind her eyes and WHUMPF, there she is.
Rolling around a little in the middle of all of her clothes.
Thankfully the guys chasing her think she's stripped in order to escape, and start putting out APBs for a naked lady, and they ignore the pineapple in the middle of the corridor, balanced oddly in one of Sophie's bra cups.
Less fortunately, Parker finds her.
Sophie spends the whole time on the way to headquarters cradled under Parker's arm, worrying about what's going to happen. Eliot's due to cook dinner, as everyone else but Nate burns food, and Nate puts more wine in himself than in the casserole, so it's much safer to have Nate not cook.
She ends up being dumped unceremoniously in the fruit bowl. On her spiky, green head. At least she has a good view of the apartment, albeit upside down, and it's encouraging to see Nate fold up her clothes neatly (although, Sophie doesn't like to think about how she can see when she's a pineapple.) The four of them talk about Sophie in worried tones, and Hardison sets off an internet search, and then they all stop for dinner.
Sophie would be appalled, if she could work up the energy, but when she was a pineapple, most of the time she just wanted to nap.
There's a dodgy moment during the preparation of dinner when Eliot heads towards the fruit bowl. He looks at Sophie the pineapple oddly, his knife glinting in his hand, and then goes for an apple that Sophie's lying next to.
She tumbles to her side, and Eliot blinks at her. Blinks again. Then narrows his eyes. "Sophie?"
No one's ever recognised Sophie when she's a pineapple before. She gets excited, which just means she leaks a little of her juice into the fruit bowl; she never wants to think about doing that ever again .
"Guys, come over here," Eliot says. Sophie looks up from her odd angle as the other three come over. "Guys, I think this is Sophie."
"Huh?" Hardison says. "The banana?"
Sophie is offended. She's not banana material. A pineapple, were she to turn into any fruit (which, okay, she does), is appropriate to her personality. Spiky, fruity, bright. Tropical.
"No, silly," Parker says, "the pineapple! Oh, I thought those spikes were like stiletto heels!"
"Um," Hardison says, "what?"
"Sometimes I turn into a lemon when I'm pissed off," Eliot says, and picks Sophie up and shakes her. "Usually I turn back if someone tries to squeeze me-"
He shakes Sophie then, and she turns back into a human and lands in a naked heap in the middle of the floor.
"A lemon ?" Sophie sniffs, clambering to her feet with pretend dignity, winking at Nate and sniffing herself dolefully. Maybe if she gets some grapefruit shower gel, she might smell like a cocktail, rather than just... pineapple. "Seriously?"
Eliot narrows his eyes, growls, and promptly turns into a lemon.
"Guess so," Sophie says, thrilled she's not alone. She shuffles her clothes on quickly. "I don't suppose you guys turn into fruit too?" she tries, hopefully, just in case that means she won't have to tell her whole embarrassing tale. Pissing witches off in Las Vegas. It was a terrible idea, at the time, and its consequences...
Hardison and Parker shake their heads.
Sophie looks pointedly at Nate as she retrieves Eliot and lays him gently on the counter.
"I don't suppose turning into a tomato on Halloween counts?" Nate asks, sheepishly.
Sophie looks at him, considering. "I suppose it's a fruit," she says, after a while. "You'll do."
He smiles, and Sophie tries not to think about how lemon and pineapple are a better combination that pineapple and tomato, while Parker and Hardison consider drug rehab. Nate - noticing Sophie's expression - leans back and seriously considers making lemonade.
FILM FUSION CHALLENGE
My Name is Nathan Ford
My name is Nathan Ford.
I am a survivor living in Massachusetts, Boston
It was too close. He had barely gotten away.
Nate fumbles with the cassette deck. His fingers are stiff. He's been up all night working and it's not enough. It's never going to be. His hand shakes as he pushes the plug into the outlet. It's not delirium tremens , although it feels the same.
The thing is in his basement, heavily sedated. Nate's hand shakes and he stares at the cassette deck, his treacherous fingers failing to find and depress the record key. There are so many more things to say.
There's nothing left to say.
Something pushes against Nate's knee; he's on his feet immediately, a spanner outstretched in his dominant hand, although it would do him little good against his actual enemies. He relaxes and exhales, a rattling sound, and he smoothes his clammy hands on his slacks.
It's just Parker. She's hungry, but it's still dark. It's too dangerous to be outside. He'd barely survived his last trip out, and he'd had a trap, and a plan, and even then-
He can't think about it. Even though death is what the whole world would have told him he deserved.
Nate stares sadly at Parker, at the glimmer of her golden hair in the lamplight, and he shakes his head. She slumps in the corner without meeting his eyes, without making a sound. She's been that way since it happened, and Nate doesn't blame her at all.
A lot of things have been like that since the end of the world.
Daylight comes like clockwork. Parker matches his step as soon as the door is open, silently keeping match with his purposeful strides. Nate has his rounds. He checks the list in his pocket, squinting at the shaky writing. Is it his bad handwriting due to his trembling hands? Or is he losing his eyesight? He can't afford the latter. He can't afford either.
He swings by the hardware store to pick up some more rope for his snare traps. On a whim he picks up another canister of white spray paint and some batteries for his torch. He's scared of the dark. If there was anyone else left alive in Massachusetts, Nate doubts they would find it an inappropriate fear.
I am broadcasting on all AM frequencies. I will be at Quincy Bay each day at midday... when the sun is highest in the sky. If you are out there... If anyone is out there... I can provide food. I can provide shelter. I can provide security.
Nate fishes while he waits. The virus avoided the fish. The fish have died since anyway, but there was one of the security guards at the lab he used to go fishing with. Spencer always said it wasn't the catch, it was the throw and the reel. It was that thought which had prompted his snare trap the night before.
He's trying not to think about it. He leaves the fishing rod on the side of the bay - there's no one left to fine him. He thinks better of it and detaches the line, bundling it into the side pocket of his bag. His fingers graze the impulse item, the white spray paint. The metal cools his skin, cools his mind.
WE ARE HERE.
The letters he sprays on the wall are more consistent than his handwriting. Nate falters at the last E. The last horizontal bar drops down like a slope. Like humanity hasn't already fallen all the way down.
Parker stays at his side. She shakes her hair and still doesn't make a sound.
Not until they're moving away, and there is an alien sound—a clatter, a scrape. Like steel sparking against a wheel. Or sharp, inhuman fingertips along brick.
He turns. Parker's faster than him. The whine she makes in the back of her throat is all the warning he gets, but it's too late. Nate's already taken the step backwards.
Nate's breath leaves his lungs. The world spins away from him. He shouts before he remembers there is no one to hear him.
No one he wants to hear him.
He goes for his gun, but the trap that's pulled him upwards and away is too tight, too fast. He's too disoriented, and his gun drops from his hand.
This is the moment.
This is the death he deserves.
He closes his eyes, but then he hears a sound which makes his heart sink. He ought to be glad at least of proof of its existence, but if he is, it's the only positive emotion he thinks he could ever feel again.
The sound is pure pain. The things have found a new victim.
Nate musters his strength, flails for the knife in his boot, works on getting himself down, but he knows it's already too late. He created these things, he should know. He falls. The world tilts one more time, and he feels pain, but it's nothing compared to the fear.
Parker, Parker, Parker .
He scrambles for his gun, firing it into the Darkseekers lurking in the shadows, and they let Parker go, but he hasn't done it in time.
He can see the glimmer of blood on Parker's golden hair. He gathers her to him anyway, her blood mingling with his on his skin. He should be thinking They're clever. They used my own tricks against me , but in his thoughts he is standing on the pier again, watching Maggie and Sam's helicopter explode.
If there's anybody out there... anybody... Please.
You are not alone.
He takes Parker down into the basement. Lays her on the table. Pushes himself over to the Darkseeker he took the day before with his rope trap, the very same rope trap they've learned. Once again he draws blood from her rapidly cooling body. She- it- flails, and Nate ignores it.
Nate tries as fast as he can to replicate a cure, but it's another failure to add to his towering pile. Parker launches herself at him. Fury in her blood-streaked eyes. Howling as his UV lamp grazes her. Nate pulls her to him. Buries his head in her fur. Clamps his arms around her neck and pulls hard. Twists. Parker dies in his arms. His beautiful dog. His only companion.
Like his family.
Like the rest of the human race.
And one more time the record plays - it's all his fault.
Nate tries to run the next day like clockwork, but Parker's ghost is in every corner; she was his denial. He finally manages to work the cassette deck. He can't do anything about the message he's left on permanent loop around the city, but he can leave something behind. An apology.
He waits at Quincy Bay as usual, the midday sun high in the sky.
As usual, no one comes.
He watches the shadows creep along the ground, reaching close to him like fingers.
As the shadows graze his skin, he can hear the Darkseekers. Moving in with each step of night. Close. Closer.
The shadow hand clenches around him, claiming one more victim.
I Am Legend.)