It would be erroneous to say Hollis didn't have dreams. They had plans to make it in the big leagues, to participate in the X-Games, to compete with all the famous snowboarders or bikers or whatever they ended up being the best at, but just like any other pipe dream, these plans dissipated like snow in the summer as they came to realize that dreams could cause you to let your guard down, and it hurt less to just not have them at all. What was important now was not those dreams.
What was important now was the two Hornets in the morgue, and the four in the hospital who were halfway there themselves, and the several others searching for some sort of solace from them, frightened to the brink of death. But Hollis didn't have much of it to give, as they were in need of it themselves. It sparked in them a drive for revenge, to make this monster pay for the horror that it caused.
What was worse was that they could have done something as they sat by and let that creature waltz past them and create a bloodbath of their friends. Their last full conversation with Keith - which had consisted of him rambling frantically about monsters and the residents of Amnesty Lodge, and how they had been covering up horror stories like this for years - had left Hollis on edge, kept them on a constant alert for any of these said monsters looking to wreak havoc on this crew they had inexplicably found themselves in charge of.
Keith had stuck close to their side since the attack, possibly for the sort of comfort the rest of the undamaged Hornets had been scavenging for all day, but Hollis appreciated the familiarity of his company more than they would ever admit.
In truth, they were so close to breaking down like any of the other Hornets had as they bustled around hospital beds occupied by semi-stable friends. But they knew that if they did, then all hope of avenging said friends would be lost as Amnesty Lodge whisked the situation away from common view, disappearing the bodies like some sort of sick magic trick.They were going to be the one to bring this monster to its end; they were going to make it mean something.
"Hey, man, stop pacing, you're making me nervous," Keith said quietly from where he sat on the edge of a bench.
Hollis sighed, forcing themself to still their pacing back and forth in the brightly lit hospital corridor. "Sorry," they muttered, trying to assemble their scrambled mind enough to make the conscious decision to sit down beside their lieutenant.
"You good?" Keith asked, worry written all over his face, although that was nothing new. Ever since he crashed his bike a few months ago he'd been glancing behind himself, paranoid that something was out to get him. Until recently, Hollis couldn't imagine why.
"Of course," Hollis replied smoothly, evening out their breathing and plastering on a gentle smile.
Keith set a hand on their shoulder and they dropped the fake smile. There wasn't much they could hide from Keith, in the end. They'd been friends for too long, even back when - redacted - was still running with their crew, before he had left, breaking Hollis' heart and shattering their dreams. It should've been him they were sitting by in this moment.
They felt guilty even as they thought it, with Keith doing his best to provide a comfort they rarely ever let themself accept, but they couldn't help but imagine how much better it would've been. Jake would've known exactly what to say to calm their nerves, while Keith could only bite his lip as he searched for something to try and downplay the previous night's events.
And it certainly wasn't helping to think about Jake.
"You know there was nothing you could've done," Keith shambled.
Hollis blew their hair out of their face and said, "I watched that lady walk right in, and I knew exactly what she was."
"And what, you think you should've killed her right then?" Keith mumbled, "you'd be in jail, Hollis."
"And Avida and Charles would still be alive," Hollis bit. They gripped the edge of the bench tightly, their knuckles paling as they did so, and stared at an uneven brick in the wall. "Ya know, you all keep coming to me, expecting me to feel better about this than the rest of you. As if I'm not just as terrified. As if I wasn't there, too, watching it all happen. And ya know, most of these fuckers didn't even see it, Keith. And ya know, neither did you. You were unconscious. You didn't see Avida's mangled body as it threw her across the room. You didn't see it reduce Charles into nothing but a bloody pile of flesh. You didn't see this thing walk in right past you, you didn't anticipate the screams like I did. So don't sit there and tell me that there was nothing I could've done."
Keith quickly dropped his hand off of his leader's shoulder, pursing his lips and drifting his eyes to the tiled ground between his feet. "I didn't-"
"Shit," Hollis sighed, running a hand through their hair, "I'm sorry, just- It really sucks, ya know?"
"I know," Keith said after a moment.
"Like, Charles use to think he was invincible. I think we all did, really."
"Yeah."They sat there in the silence for a minute, both looking exasperated and tired and undeniably afraid in a way that peeled away a worn down guise that they'd been wearing ever since they changed their name from the Kepler Stunt Club.
The silence was broken by the click-clack of shoes against the hallway tiles and a figure took shape in the blinding hospital lights. The figure had been walking briskly, but slowed to a snail's pace, then a full hesitant stop as the two Hornets looked in their direction.
And of course, standing there in bright neons contrasting wildly against the bleached white of the brick walls and tile floor was Jake Coolice. And against all odds, he looked miserable.
After a longer-than-average hesitation, he walked the rest of the way to the bench, stopping a good 10 feet away and scratching anxiously at his elbow.
"Uh, hey," he said by way of awkward greeting.
"What the hell are you on thinking you have any business-" Keith growled, shutting up instantly as Hollis kicked at his ankle.
"Hey, Jake," they greeted, in a calm, almost melancholy tone, "I suppose you heard about the, uh, well..."
"Yeah. Yeah, I did," Jake said quietly.
"So what does it matter to you?" Keith sneered.
"Keith, how about you go check on Stevin?" Hollis appointed, gesturing toward one of the many wooden doors that speckled down the hallway.
Keith glared at them for a moment, then at Jake, but got up and disappeared into the other room nevertheless.
"So, um," Jake said, bowing his head and scratching at his hair, "how've you been holdin' up?"
"Do you mean recently or just in general?" Hollis asked on an inhale. They hadn't been sure if Jake was a part of that formation over at Amnesty Lodge, working to keep these monstrosities a secret, but they wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt.
Jake shrugged. "I dunno. I just wanted to see- I just wanted to, um-"
"To know who kicked it?" Hollis provided.
"Yeah..." Jake breathed.
And Hollis filled him in, reciting the details on how the bodies were mangled to an unidentifiable point, but they could only guess considering there were only two who didn't meet up with them in the aftershock. They said it all in a monotonous, almost rehearsed voice, and Jake looked increasingly more daunted with every blatantly stated gory detail.
In the end, Jake found himself at a complete loss for words. It was sad to see him without his spunk. "I'm sorry," he finally uttered, "I'm not making anything better by being here, huh?"
Hollis huffed. "No, not especially."
"You know they were my friends, too."
"I know they were."
There had once been a time where Hollis would've rejoiced at Jake's presence, would've greeted him with open arms, but after a few years of accepting that they were never going to have a happy ending together, they forced themself to move on. Now it hurt to have him standing so close, looking so unfairly hurt.
"Look, I'll get outta your hair, I just," he began.
"I've missed you," Hollis let out before thinking it over properly.
"I- wait, you have?" Jake spurred, no amount of his surprise being hidden in his voice.
No, Hollis thought, get the hell away from me and never talk to me again. They wished they could say that, to end this heartache for good, but they couldn't get it out. It's not like they'd ever had a problem with lying before, but this time it was infinitely harder.
"I thought you all hated me, though," he pondered.
No, Jake, you idiot, they thought, then sighed. If he couldn't see how they felt, that was his own fault, and Hollis couldn't dwell on his oblivion any longer.
They went for the cop-out, ducking away from the truth of the question. "Keith does, that's for sure, though he never was a big fan of yours even back then."
Jake laughed lightly, and Hollis felt their cheeks warm with that old familiar longing. "If that ain't true," he said. "How's he doing, though? I mean, all goofs aside, how's he holdin' up?"
"Jake," Hollis said, swiftly avoiding yet another question, "you really should go now. I get that you just wanted to know what happened and all, but this isn't your crew anymore. You made that decision yourself."
Really, they didn't want him to go. They wanted to invite him to sit next to them, to laugh about the dumb shit they use to do, and the dumb shit they still do. They wanted to lay their head on his shoulder and tell him that, no, Keith wasn't okay, and neither were they, and neither was anything else, that a monster had killed their friends and the people he lived with could've don't something to prevent it, but they did nothing except prepare to swoop in and clean up the mess behind it.
Really, they didn't want Jake to go, but they needed him to go, so they could restart on the arduous chore of clearing the memory of this boy from their head, and pay attention to the friends they had to avenge. They needed him to go.
So he did, and Hollis didn't feel any lighter for it. All of the weight still bore down on their chest and they were one inch closer to finally breaking down.