You don’t get to drink because the kid doesn’t drink. You’re an adult, you’re over 200 years old, but he’s underage and his body guards won’t let you so much as walk near a bar. It’s not fair, you say, and they ignore you.
It’s not fair.
It takes quite a bit of wheedling and far too much bribery but you manage to get your drink. Just cheap vodka and you don’t even have a chaser but hey, it’s better than nothing. It’s better than remembering.
She was beautiful, you say, and half of the bottle is already gone. Your throat burns all the way to your belly. They were all beautiful.
The kid hasn’t so much as looked at a drink before, let alone had half a handle. He’s very nearly passed out and you’re getting close, too. You don’t think you were ever such a light weight, even when you were his age. But it’s different for humans, isn’t it? They take so long to grow.
Who is she? he mumbles. His breathing is slow, his eyes barely open. He’s so buzzed and it’s wonderful. Who were they?
They were mine, you say. You roll onto your back, spread eagle on the bed. The vodka bottle falls from your hand but you don’t care. They were my chimeras. They were my toys. They were my—
Friends, says Ling. The brat is perceptive, even when drunk. They were your friends.
Shut up. Your head is pounding already. Shut up, they weren’t. They were—
You let the images flash in his head in lieu of words. Her crooked grin, her shining eyes. Her body moved with a grace no human could possess. Her knife to your neck because she didn’t take shit from you, she didn’t take shit from anyone.
What about the others? His body, your body, sits up. It’s too hot in here. You throw off your jacket. What about the other two?
You don’t trust your voice and you send him more images instead. A smaller man, quick as lightning, a smile like the sun. A larger man, heavy and steady, big arms around you. All of you together, curled up in a bed too small, sheets strewn about.
Did you love them? This is stupid, this is stupid. The alcohol was to make you forget, not remember. He asks again: did you love them?
Shut up, you stupid brat. The room’s too warm and your head pounds more. Shut up. It’s none of your business. They didn’t matter.
But they are your friends, he says. Isn’t he supposed to be drunk? Shouldn’t be passed out by now? It’s okay to love your friends.
No it’s not. You sit up again and the room spins. You’re so tired of stupid shitty inns. You miss your bar. They aren’t friends, they’re my stuff. They don’t matter.
Shut up. It doesn’t matter. They’re dead.
That shuts him up, finally. You very nearly rip off your shirt and throw it across the room, the alcohol already starting to sweat through your skin. Stupid cheap vodka. Stupid brat. Stupid everything. You lurch off the bed and stumble to the bathroom, falling to your knees in front of the toilet. The walls close in on you and you heave, gripping the bowl like a lifeline. You haven’t drunk yourself to vomiting in a long time and you wish it had been longer. You will never miss this feeling.
Afterwards you wash your face and clean your mouth but it still tastes sour. Ling’s finally quiet and you hope he passed out. Fucking kid doesn’t know when to keep his mouth closed. Staggering back into the bedroom you fall onto the bed, barely managing to crawl on top of it. Your head’s going to kill you in the morning and you should get some water to help that but you don’t even care right now. You just want to sleep.
They loved you too. Ling’s voice is like a hammer in your ear and you bolt up. They really cared about you.
Be quiet, you hiss, but it comes like begging. Just let me sleep.
He doesn’t let you sleep. He pries his way into your head, pries his way into all those memories you’ve been trying so hard to keep down. Her face in the early morning sun, his face under the stars. Soft curves, hard muscles, a body covered in too many scars. It’s okay to love your friends, Ling says again. They loved you too.
You don’t cry and no one can prove you ever did.
If anything happened after that you don’t know because you open your eyes it’s morning. The sun streams right into your eyes and your head hurts so much you can barely move. Kid’s passed out too, thankfully. It’s too early and too painful to deal with him right now. Dragging yourself off the bed, you head to the bathroom. You’d rather curl up and spend all day in bed but you have too many things to do and you might as well make yourself look presentable; Ling’s bodyguards will have your head if they find out you got drunk last night.
Despite your best efforts they find out anyway. You get a long talking to and everyone else tries to make you feel bad about what you did. You don’t. You’re on close watch now and it’s annoying as hell but there’s nothing else you can really do. Eventually they’ll let their guard down again and you can slip away but for now you’re just going to have to deal.
It’s been a few days now and Ling’s been mostly quiet. It’s been nice not having to fight him for control. But you know he’s just biding his time, just biding his time and thinking, so you still have to stay alert around him. Kid gets an idea in his head and he doesn’t let it go.
…What were their names? he says late one night. Your friends, what were their names?
It’ll be easier to just give him what he wants, won’t it? Maybe if you tell him this he’ll just shut up. The girl’s Martel, you say, Roa’s the large one, Dolcetto’s the small one. You let their images float through your mind. Martel and Dolcetto both in your arms, Roa’s arms around all three of you. The night you rescue them from the lab. The day Bradley came.
Thank you, Ling finally says. He smiles. Real friends are linked by their souls. You have their memories; they won’t die.
You don’t cry again and still no one can prove you ever did.
Real friends are linked through their souls. You think about that a long time. If you have their memories they won’t die... It’s a bunch of bullshit. They’re dead; Bradley cut them down in front of yours eyes. Memories won’t bring them back. But still…
Maybe you’ll try remembering them instead of pushing them away. Maybe you’ll accept them. You don’t make any promises and you tell Ling that, and he just smiles. Real friends are linked by their souls, he says again. If you remember them, they’ll always be with you.
It’s stupid, it’s total bullshit. You can’t bring them back, nothing can bring them back. But if Ling’s right… well, it’s worth a try. It’s worth it to think of your friends again.