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She Knows There Are Other Languages

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Offer the wolves your arm only from the elbow down. Leave tourniquet space. Do not offer them your calves. Do not offer them your side. Do not let them near your femoral artery, your jugular. Give them only your arm.


He knows they can fix him - break him - if he wanted them to. He knows that he can give it all up. He knows every time he sees that arrogant, smiling face on the television, then automatically looks down and there is nothing. He knows that everyone that he surrounds himself with now, they hate it, they hate what it stands for, they wish he would get rid of it even though it is the thing which makes him useful.

He knows they would tell him that he is useful to them just as he was, as a person, as a soldier. He also hears the implications of that. Is he not a person - is he not a soldier - because of this?

He knows that if their situations were reversed, he would stand to lose more than just an arm.


Wear chapstick when kissing the bomb.


He knows it's wrong, but when it happens, he doesn't want to be right.

He knows it's even more wrong than it used to be, because he has told her that he would give up everything for her, he has proven everything he thought he had left to prove, but it is a lie. He would not give up everything for her, because he would not give up this, and he knows that she would ask him to, if she knew about it.

He knows that everyone would be horrified if they knew. He is pretty sure that he would not survive the experience, and he has a lot of practice at surviving experiences that would have killed lesser men. Even worse - he knows that everyone would be horrified if they knew, and he could use that. He hasn't used that yet. The one thin tenuous strand of hope is that he is just as addicted, that he wouldn't give this up either, and knows that if his threats came to pass, there would be nothing left to have.

He knows that kind of reasoning and logic hasn't stopped him before, though.


Pretend you don't know English.


She wonders, afterwards, why she could understand them.

She knows they were talking past her, talking over her, talking as if she was an irrelevance. She doesn't think they would have been comprehensible to her for her own benefit. She doesn't see where their advantage would be in that, and she doesn't consider them stupid enough to do anything not to their own advantage.

And she knows there are other languages. The guards and the conspirators spoke their own language when she was shipped off to a foreign shore like a precious relic, spoke her language too but spoke their own when they wanted to speak it over her head. She wonders why she didn't wonder so much when he spoke her language, that first day that they had met, or at least afterwards, when she understood where he came from.


Pretend you never met her.


He knows that he should move on.

He knows that there are no shortage of offers. He knows that he can literally have his pick. He knows that he could even find someone who looks like her, who is willing to dress like her. He knows he can probably even find someone who moves like her, and almost nobody moves like her, not any more.

He knows that she wouldn't want him to be alone.

He knows that she did not mourn him forever. He knows that she moved on, found a husband, had a family. He knows that she did not waste the rest of her life pining after him, when he was dead.

He knows he can't offer her the same honour. He knows he will never move on.


Offer the bomb to the wolves. Offer the wolves to the zombies.


She knows it was the tactically correct decision. It doesn't help. She can't stop blaming him for it. This is why they can't go on like this. This is why she's leaving. This is why she keeps telling herself the old adage about loving something and letting it go. This is why she won't let him kiss her any more. This is why she's not finishing the champagne in his presence.

She knows that she could issue an ultimatum. She knows that she could say, it's them or me. She knows that he would make that decision, and both of them would regret it for the rest of their lives.

She does not know what the outcome of that decision would be, and that scares her more than she is equipped to admit, so she does not force him to make it.

Instead, she drives him into the arms of his friends. It's better that way.


Only insert a clean knife into your chest. Rusty ones will cause tetanus. Or infection.


The trick, said another man, is not minding that it hurts.

She fusses over him, in her own way, when he comes back to the hotel room like this. She would never say anything, but she picks out the splinters and wields the antiseptic wipes with a furious efficiency which says it all for her. Words are for deception, are a tool, cannot be genuine.

It is only in actions, and only sometimes, that the truth leaks out.

He wants to tell her that she is being hypocritical, but she isn't, really. She knows that he does it on purpose. She knows the difference between them, he knows it too -

he does it because he wants to, she does it because she has to.


Don't inhale.


It is not that he doesn't understand that people have limits.

He understands that people have limits. He understands very well that his people have limits, and he understands where those limits are, better than they do themselves. Often much better than they do themselves.

That's why he's working with them, and not leaving them to someone else.

He also understands that his people do not find their limits unless he tells them to exceed where they think they are. He understands that she won't exceed her limits until he tells her to - not like the other one, who has long since been made painfully aware of every one of her own and exactly how far they can go.

He has made a contingency plan in case she does not obey him, of course - the reserve won't be as good, but she'll survive the experience - but even as she says that she can't, she can't do this, what does he think she is... she does it, like everyone else.


Realize that this love was not your trainwreck, was not the truck that flattened you, was not your Waterloo, did not cause massive hemorrhaging from a rusty knife. That love is still to come.


Since he came to join them, she has felt the dressing on the wound she had all but forgotten, shifting gently underneath her clothes.

She hates recovery time. It brings back the uncertainty, the feeling that it will be cut short, that she will have to make do with what health and vitality she can scrape together. That this time she will make permanent something that was carefully gauged at the time to be only temporary, because something else comes up, because when something needs doing it does not wait for a convenient moment.

She hates being reminded of the wound, so she deals with it by lashing out; by attempting to wound him in her stead, as if that will bring her peace.


Use a rusty knife to cut through most of the noose in a strategic place so that it breaks when your weight is on it.


He wishes he could trust him.

He wishes he could trust him, but everyone tells him that he can't. His own heart tells him that he can't. His own head - and he is not as stupid as they like to paint him - tells him that he can't. He cannot trust him because he is too broken, because something from the darkness has wrapped around him and claimed any shred of what he might have been.

He wishes he could trust him when he tries to apologise, but it sounds more than half composed of a hasty regret for the turn of events, not an apology; he is sorry that this has happened, sorry that it has come to this, not sorry for the things he has done which have brought him here.


Practice desperate pleas for attention, louder calls for help. Learn them in English, French, Spanish: May Day, Aidez-Moi, Ayúdame.


He knows this is a terrible plan.

He knew this was a terrible idea, and that was why it was so perfect.

He did not know that they would take him seriously.

He thought they would see straight through it, because it just wasn't like him - it had too many rough edges, too many uncertainties. Too many single points of failure. He cannot really believe, in the end, that they really did not understand what he was doing.

He knows, therefore, that there must have been a deeper motive.

He knows that there is no more reason to feel any allegiance towards the one who would do this to him, when he could have averted it all if only he had listened.


Don't kiss trainwrecks. Don't kiss knives. Don't kiss.


She never kisses anyone. Not any more. It never helps.

She knows that it does not look like that. It is the same body, in some technicalities, that kisses plenty of people. But if you knew her - and precious few do - you could tell. Many other people kiss, but she does not.

It was not always like this, but then again, maybe it was.

She cannot tell, because she does not want to remember those times. She does not want to remember a time when she did not have boundaries, and part of putting up these boundaries was this kind of demarcation.

She tells you, ssh, it's not you. You would know if I did not respect you, she says, because then someone would kiss you - it just would not be her.


Pretend you made up the zombies, and only superheroes exist.


What everyone else forgets, he cannot ignore: there are no people who are not people.

He sees them, every detail of their lives; not just their husks littering the corridors, cast aside as unimportant. Before this, they were people who lived and loved, who ate and drank, who had other passions and other thoughts.

More than anyone else he knows that the happy endings are each balanced precariously atop the pile of the defeated that no-one else gave a second glance.

It must be so much easier to be able to turn a blind eye.


Pretend there is no kryptonite.


Also, he sees that, of course.

He knows it is the least worst solution out of a thousand terrible choices.

Why would he say anything about it?

After all, he is still bound.


Pretend there was no love so sweet that you would have died for it, pretend that it does not belong to someone else now, pretend like your heart depends on it because it does. Pretend there is no wreck -- you watched the train go by and felt the air brush your face and that was it. Another train passing. You do not need trains. You can fly. You are a superhero. And there is no kryptonite.


You move on, after death, no?

You certainly do not see the past out of the corner of your eye, everywhere; see his hand behind things he cannot have set in motion, because you have seen the body, you have seen his remains dispersed as they ought to be.

You count the blessings that you have. The acceptance of destiny is not surrender. It is better to have loved and lost. You have no shortage of suitors; you have no shortage of love.

You never quite knew how you felt in the first place. That is your story, and you are sticking to it. You cannot accept any other interpretation.

You never call her the wrong name… out loud.


Forget her name.


She never simply coveted your status, your wealth, your power. You used those as excuses, because you could not give her what she wanted.

And then… well, and then you could. As he had told you. As everyone knew.

You never call her the wrong name, either.

Although sometimes you wonder, when she looks searchingly into your eyes... whether she might wish that sometimes, just sometimes, you did.