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the deserts they left behind

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They say they know the story, but they don’t. A lie, here and there, nothing that’s gonna change the world.

So it started like this:

Sitting at a bar, too many whiskeys down to count, not caring anymore. Knees too close, comfort given up hours ago. Bad day, bad case, bad life. Ended up here somehow, everyone else ran out on them. They're the survivors, caught in a storm with no port in sight.

A cab, holding too tight, no backing out now. Still sounds like they hate each other, even when his mouth is on her neck, her hands in his hair. Ain’t that funny.

His place, hers. It don’t matter now.

They go down in fire and light, burning like the deserts they left behind.

 

Or maybe it was like this:

Files on the carpet, on the table, invading like waves, backing them into a corner. Laughing, something about midnight bells chiming in the night-light glow. His hand on hers, they’ve been stuck together hours, sparring, back and forth. She’s sick of the sight of him, he’s shaking his head because he knows the look in her eye.

There’s a momentary pause, something whispered across the divide. Maybe they should go for a coffee but there’s nowhere open at this hour. Kick back on the couch then, pretending that they’ve done this a hundred times. She knows the lines by his eyes, the tiredness that rests there. Reflections are always hard to look at, ain’t they?   

‘You know, Barba,’ she says, ‘you better watch out,  you’re startin’ to seem human.’

‘Back at you, Rollins,’ he says.

Yeah, that sounds like a better story, don’t it? Sound and fury left them alone this time, abandoned them to fickle fate.

But just a story, all in all.

 

Could’ve gone like this:

A fight, break room of the station, Liv and Nick peering over the blinds. Don’t care for anyone else in the world, with words that can’t be taken back. It’s not even about them, some fucking idiot he’s prosecuting, some victim she can’t shake.

‘It’s called overcompensating,’ he says.

‘Or, maybe, you’re just a bastard with control issues.’

That’s when the mug goes flying. Splinters into pieces on the wood work. Ah fuck, she’s gonna get a suspension for that.

And then they’re out the back, Cragen’s voice in their ears, walking up the tarmac trying to ‘make it work or get fucking lost.’

The last one sounds better.

He’s calling a cab, she’s adjusting her jacket. Standing there, anger falling, falling. Her eyes are still red, his hands are still in a death grip. He says something under her breath. Big fucking mistake. Red flag, bull, comes to mind. Her arms pushing the air aside, connecting to his chest. She remembers backends of nowhere, boys that didn’t want to take the fucking hint. Her fists, her words, the only things she had left after a while.

He puts his hands on her hips and she should’ve seen this coming.

Should’ve seen it fucking coming.

He even tastes expensive.

 

There are other versions out there - this girl meets boy story, her and him, all the people they could’ve been once upon a time. Bright light, running away from something. He got out the dust and she didn’t, that’s the truth of it. Simple easy, plain as day. Got lost in it all, didn’t they?

One life, then another, the what-if’s that pile themselves up in the forgotten file. Misplaced, mistaken, misinterpreted. Just the two of them, hands that could never still themselves.  

He’s gonna get his shoes scratched out late with a girl like her. She’s gonna get her heart broken with a guy like him. Not in it for the long haul, all the wrong reasons. Don’t that make it right? They belong to other people, other worlds.   

They are a story: a lost little girl and a boy who thought he was free. They are a memory. Got the dust in their lungs, the different deserts their souls call home. They run and they run but they never escape that.

A dual destiny, an exercise in futility. Heart hurt, too tired from all the fighting they’ve been doing on other people’s behalf.

‘You can stop, you know,’ he says, once upon a dream.

‘So can you.’

But they don’t. Too similar in their fault lines, dancing on the edge. Girl meets boy, doesn’t fall in love, no, but finds something else - something too close to truth, to pain, to love, but it doesn’t have a name.   

You cannot fall in love with your reflection, especially if you smash the glass.

 

So really, it went like this:  

‘You look lonely,’ he says. She laughs.

‘So do you.’

A pause, she reaches out but takes it back. They are at the station, the bar, the office. They are there, they are not.

‘Sorry,’ she says.

‘Sorry too,’ he says. What are they apologising for, she wonders. Is it the mirror, placed haphazardly at their souls? Too many worlds apart, those backends of nowhere. He got out, she didn’t. Yachts and suits that cost more than she makes in a year - that’s not her, not ever. Just got a sister who stole her house, got her boyfriend shot. Got a problem with gambling, knows the odds are too high - the flutter of a bet, the high she’s always after. Not gonna take a risk on this one. They both know that, turning away from the edge of the end. It’s the fall that kills you, ain’t it? So they walk away before their fingers get burned, before the inevitable car crash they know they’d be. It is written before they even meet, a tale that has no beginning, no ending.

One boy, one girl. Him, her, the nod of the head. Slipping away in the mid-evening haze, getting lost in the cityscape, the too bright lights. This is a memory. This is fiction.

But they know, oh they do. It didn’t go like this:

‘I love you.’

‘I love you too.’

 

They say they know the story, but they don’t.