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Crash

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She knew this was a bad idea. She knew it. She tried to tell the others that this was a stupid idea, but she was swiftly outvoted. The last thing Alicia Clark wants to do after the world ends is get in a plane piloted by a journalist, of all people. A journalist. Alicia, frankly, is not surprised when the plane loses an engine and they begin to plummet towards the earth. Not surprised in the least, but she pulls her seatbelt tighter and digs her nails into the armrests and squeezes her eyes shut and holds on for dear life. Alarms won’t stop blaring, red lights flashing, as if they don’t know they’re going down.

 

First, Alicia’s boyfriend died. He was a sweet boy, never anything but gentle and funny in his own sort of way. Alicia thinks she loved him, once upon a time, but that time has long passed. She isn’t the person she was when she loved Matt anymore. That feels like a lifetime ago, and she tries not to let her mind wander that far back.

 

Alicia can’t say she was happy about Chris’s death, per se, but she wasn’t exactly upset. She doesn’t dwell on him.

 

Next came Jake. Alicia thinks she loved Jake, too, but in a different way, for different reasons. Or maybe it wasn’t love. Maybe she just wanted to believe it was love. Maybe she needed to feel something other than fear and hopelessness for once. Maybe Jake was only…convenient.

 

Alicia doesn’t think about Ofelia Salazar anymore. She spent enough sleepless nights thinking about her.

 

Her mom is the hardest to accept. Alicia would’ve put her life on Madison being the absolute last human alive on the planet. Maybe life lost all meaning when the dead started to walk, or maybe it only lost its meaning when Madison sacrificed herself so they could live. The one person Alicia could never fathom losing was gone. Just like that. The one person she expected to make it – gone. She’s still numb.

 

Then there’s Nick. No matter what hell Nick put her and their family through, he is – he was her brother. He always had a knack for getting himself into – and out of – tight situations. All it took was one well-placed bullet from a child

 

Alicia tries not to think about Nick, too, but every time her eyes land on Luciana, his face pops into her mind. Every time her eyes close, his face is there. Many times, at night, she sees him alongside Madison, smiling, surrounded by brightly colored flowers, waiting.

 

It’s worse than the actual nightmares.

 

As the plane goes down, the faces of those Alicia has lost flash through her mind, one after the other, over and over and over. Her eyes open in an attempt to get rid of the faces of the dead. The dead are gone. The plane is going down, and Alicia is soon to be among their ranks.

 

John Dorie mutters a prayer under his breath. A last ditch effort, maybe. Alicia’s almost glad June is up in the cockpit with Al, only because she doesn’t have to watch John and June swap spit and hold hands and pray together or something.

 

“Brace yourself!” Al yells over her shoulder.

 

Alicia squeezes her eyes shut. She’s going to die. She’s going to die, even though she fucking told everyone not to risk flying a plane. Even though she voted with Strand and Luciana not to fly, even if it’d be faster, because the only person capable of figuring out how to fly a plane is a journalist. And now they’re going down. What a fucking surprise. Alicia is going to die strapped into a seat beside Morgan, the man desperate to help people who obviously don’t fucking want help, and now she’s paying the price.

 

She silently apologizes to her mother and Nick before her head hits something hard and dazes her. She doesn’t lose consciousness as the plane flips and rolls and rips apart, but only just barely. Eventually, the alarms stop blaring, the plane stops moving, and everything goes silent. Alicia becomes aware of the fact that she’s hanging, that the plane – what’s left of it – is on its side. She groans, wincing at the pain that sears through her head, and fumbles for the buckle. It releases, and Alicia drops to the ground, catching herself on her hands and knees. She looks to her right, and the tail end of the plane isn’t there.

 

She hears it. It’s faint, but it’s definitely there. Moaning. The dead. She blinks until her vision isn’t blurry and forces herself to stand. She touches her fingertips to her eyebrow, unsurprised to see blood when she pulls her hand back. She turns to Morgan, shakes his arm, but he doesn’t stir. He’s strapped in, Alicia thinks deliriously, so if he’s dead instead of just unconscious, at least he won’t be able to get to the others. John’s starting to come to, and Alicia doesn’t get eyes on Luciana before she realizes the dead sound closer. Way too close. And she’s the only person on their feet.

 

She stumbles out of the plane and searches for something nearby that can be used as a weapon. She has eyes on what’s surely just the first wave of the dead, probably less than a yard away from them. She grabs the nearest thing that can be a decent weapon. It’s metal, sharp – frankly, Alicia doesn’t know what it is, but she picks it up, hissing as it cuts into her palms. The dead are almost here. She has no choice. Gritting her teeth, she swings at the first one’s head and feels a sick thrill of satisfaction when she cuts clean through its skull. Blood splatters against her neck, but she hardly takes notice. Exhaling, she swings again. And again. And again. Singlehandedly, she keeps the dead away from the wreckage. She protects everyone inside the plane. By herself.

 

At least until the second wave starts arriving. It reminds Alicia of those video games Nick used to play. She can’t name one to save her life, but the enemy comes at you in waves. The first wave is the easiest, and it gets steadily harder until, well, until you die. Alicia staggers back closer to the plane, breathing heavily, and she scans the oncoming dead. They’re coming from all directions, some on their own, some in packs of four or five or more. They all snarl and snap their jaws and reach for her, and her brain freezes. She doesn’t know what the best strategy is – at least, not instantly. She needs more time –

 

There’s one right behind her. She whips around, prepared to strike, but she pulls away at the last second when her eyes land on Morgan’s face. Her heart hammers in her throat, and she swallows hard.

 

“Your hands, Alicia,” Morgan says, prompting Alicia to look down. At first, she assumes it’s the blood of the dead. She’s already slaughtered twenty, thirty? Her eyes set on the deep slashes in her palms. The blood’s hers.

 

“Yeah,” Alicia says. Big fucking deal. The dead are coming. What choice does she have? She mows down another twenty, thirty dead, Morgan by her side, before she stops and truly begins to feel the stinging in her palms. The wind carries the moans of the dead from God knows where, but they’re out of sight for right now. Alicia chucks the hunk of metal aside and goes to the nearest piece of luggage. It doesn’t take long for her to dig up medical supplies, so she guesses the bag belongs to June. Alicia splashes hydrogen peroxide on her wounds and quickly winds bandages around her hands. It isn’t until she turns back to Morgan that she realizes he’s been watching her this whole time.

 

“What?” Alicia snaps.

 

“Luciana,” Morgan says softly. “She’s hurt.”

 

It’s like being punched in the gut. Or maybe like being hit by a truck. For a moment, Alicia can’t breathe. She can’t lose it now. They don’t have time for that.

 

“The others?” she manages to ask.

 

“John’s helping her,” Morgan says. “Trying to help her. June and Al…” he trails off, and Alicia doesn’t wait for him to pick up his line of thought again. She dashes to the cockpit but skids to a stop when she sees the three dead gathered at the window, pressing their faces to the glass in a futile attempt to get at the cockpit’s contents. Alicia ditched her weapon, and one of the dead has already turned to face her, a much easier meal than the two people sealed in a cockpit.

 

Alicia easily finds another makeshift weapon and dispatches the dead at the cockpit without issue. She throws that hunk of metal aside as well, but not too far this time, and crouches in front of the window the dead had been peering into. The cockpit, like the cabin, is on its side, but there’s June, and there’s Althea. They’re both moving. Both alive.

 

Alicia doesn’t know if she’s more angry or relieved. The relief comes first, washes over her, and she almost laughs. The relief doesn’t last long, quickly replaced by anger, and Alicia puts it toward figuring out a way into the cockpit. She won’t be able to get through that window –

 

“Up there!” Al calls, motioning toward what’s now the top of the cockpit. The door. Duh. Alicia hears Morgan kill something not very far behind them, but she doesn’t look back, instead concentrating on how the hell she’s going to get that door open. She gets up there without issue, grabs onto the handle, but the damn thing won’t budge.

 

“Well, help me out!” Alicia shouts, banging her fist against the door. Her muscles strain, and it isn’t until the door finally begins to creak open that she feels the clawing at her calves. The door opens, and Al’s head pops up, still with that ridiculous headset on, hazel eyes searching Alicia’s bloodied face. Alicia glances back and sees a cluster of dead gathered at the cockpit, all trying to grab at her legs and yank her to the ground so they can have a snack. She sends her boot into the face of one, and though it’s sent to the dirt, another quickly takes up its spot.

 

“Don’t just stare!” Alicia blurts. “Do something!”

 

Al ducks back into the cockpit, and for a second, Alicia really believes she’s on her own with this. Morgan’s occupied with the dead trying to enter the cabin, June is below Alicia in the cockpit hanging sideways still, and Alicia is one bad grab away from becoming chow for the dead. She can’t let go of the door lest she go sliding right into their decaying arms. Her muscles are tiring fast, aching for her to let go, and she gives one of the dead grasping at her leg another kick. She hears its jaw snap, but that doesn’t prevent it from unleashing another moan.

 

Al returns with one of John Dorie’s precious revolvers in hand. Retrieved from June, no doubt, and Alicia makes a mental note to thank June later. Or John. Maybe both of them. There’s a click, and Al fires off every single shot then exhales and slumps against the cockpit beside Alicia.

 

“Thanks,” Alicia breathes.

 

“Ditto.”

 

Alicia lets go and slides back to the ground, careful not to land on the bodies of the dead. Al, meanwhile, climbs up and turns back to help June out and return the revolver. Alicia allows herself a moment to catch her breath as Al and June hop down. They’re both bleeding from their heads, although in different spots, Alicia notes. But they’re not concerned with their bleeding. Their eyes are set squarely on Alicia, on the blood dripping from her eyebrow but also on the blood covering the rest of her face. Neck. Hands. If her shirt wasn’t black, it’d probably be completely stained.

 

Al’s eyes drop to Alicia’s bandaged hands. Alicia flinches, nearly jamming her hands into the pockets of her jacket to conceal them. She could say it happened in the crash, just to rub it in Al’s face, but Morgan knows the truth, so why lie?

 

June’s eyes flick between Alicia and Althea before she takes off, running for the cabin to find John, surely, but she’ll be more useful there anyway.

 

“What happened?” Al asks. Her eyes go from Alicia’s hands to her face, back to her hands. Alicia glances at them herself, a little surprised to find she’s bled through the bandages. Al takes careful steps toward Alicia, like she’s a potentially rabid dog or something. Alicia scoffs, rolls her eyes, and forces herself not to step backward as Al advances. “Alicia,” Al says. “C’mon. What happened?”

 

“Got cut,” Alicia answers. “It’s not too bad.”

 

“Bullshit,” Al replies. “The bandages are soaked.”

 

“You’re bleeding, too,” Alicia snaps. “It looks bad.”

 

“It’s not.”

 

“Could you contact Strand?” Alicia asks.

 

“Don’t change the subject.” Al pauses. “No.”

 

“So we’re fucked.” Alicia smiles in disbelief. “See, I told you,” she shoves Al by the shoulders even though it sends stabbing pains through her palms, “I told you trying to fly to Logan was a bad idea.” Alicia shoves Al again for good measure and turns her back to her, shaking her head. “You couldn’t just vote with me, could you?” Alicia mutters. “You’re too afraid of what the others might think if you sided with me.”

 

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Al says evenly. She straightens out her jacket and pushes her hair out of her eyes. She keeps her distance.

 

“Liar,” Alicia spits. She looks down at her hands to find the bandages are basically useless, too soaked to stop the flow of blood. Beads roll from her palms off the ends of her fingertips, dropping to the dirt beside her boots. Alicia spins back around, teeth bared, and walks at Al until there’s nearly no space between them. Alicia jabs her bloody finger into the center of Al’s chest and snarls, “You told me you weren’t sure you could fly the damn thing. You told me you weren’t sure it was a good idea, but when it came time to vote, you sided with Morgan.” Alicia takes a step back, grinning. She looks up at the sky and shouts, “And look here! The plane crashed! We’re in the middle of fucking nowhere with no way out! What a great idea!”

 

“The engine failed,” Al says quietly. “What was I supposed to do?”

 

Alicia’s smile falls. “You were supposed to vote to drive to Logan’s position, like I did. Now Luciana’s hurt, and we’re stranded, and Logan is probably fucked now, too.”

 

“Alicia –”

 

“Don’t!” Alicia hisses, yanking her arm free of Al’s sudden hold. She cradles her arm against her chest. “Don’t fucking touch me.”

 

“Alicia –”

 

“You could’ve died,” Alicia whispers. She smacks her hand against Al’s chest and doesn’t protest when Al holds onto her wrist, keeps her hand there. There’s blood smeared on her jacket now, and Al loves that damn jacket, but Alicia’s hand doesn’t move. “You could’ve died, and then what?” Alicia says. She blinks back the oncoming wetness in her eyes. There’s no point in crying. Tears don’t change anything. Alicia swallows hard and says, “And then you’d just be another name for me to write in my book of lost loved ones, all because you let everyone convince you that you could fly and land a plane.”

 

“We landed,” Al says weakly.

 

“We crashed,” Alicia corrects.

 

“Crash landed.”

 

Alicia pulls her hand back. “And if you died –”

 

“But I didn’t.”

 

“If you died, I could tell everyone the truth and accept their pity or I could hide my feelings for the sake of – of what? What are we hiding for? June and John are –”

 

“June and John aren’t in charge,” Al cuts in. “You are.”

 

“How does that change anything?” Alicia asks in exasperation. They’re just rehashing an old argument again. “The world is over. Who cares?”

 

“Look, just, I have my reasons for not wanting my business out in the open for everyone to dissect and analyze,” Al says. She inhales, eyes flicking back down to Alicia’s hands, and she says, “You should really bandage that again.”

 

“I don’t care.” Alicia bites back a command of go get your head looked at, because she knows Al isn’t going to do anything about it. Alicia glances at the bloody handprint she left on the center of Al’s chest, staining her jacket, and Alicia hopes someone dares to ask Al about it later. Alicia walks away and returns to the cabin. She passes by Morgan, taking a break from fending off the dead, to find June and John surrounding Luciana, blocking Alicia’s view. John looks up first, nudging his hat farther up his head, and Alicia tries not to let the grim look on his face bother her.

 

“What’s going on?” she asks.

 

“She’s injured,” June informs.

 

“I know that,” Alicia says. “What –” She stops speaking once she’s close enough to see it for herself. There’s a pole protruding from Luciana’s shoulder, and she does her best to hide the horror threatening to cross her face for Luciana’s sake. “What can I do?” Alicia asks.

 

“Hold her hand,” June suggests. “We have to cut her free and get her somewhere safe so I can take care of the wound.”

 

“The hacksaws,” John says suddenly. “I’ll go find one.”

 

Alicia holds Luciana’s hand, and June applies pressure to the wound while they wait for John to come back. The dead are becoming fewer and far between, but the crash was so loud, they’re probably on their way in from miles away. Alicia squeezes Luciana’s hand in both of hers and tries to tell her she’ll be alright, but she isn’t so sure herself.

 

John comes back with a hacksaw and with Al in tow. Alicia grits her teeth and keeps her eyes on Luciana’s face, shifting to the side to make room for John.

 

“Al, get in here,” June orders, as if that isn’t the last thing Alicia wants. “Hold it steady. Don’t let it move.”

 

Al fits between June and Alicia, reaching over Luciana to grasp onto the pole and hold it while John begins sawing away at it. Alicia breathes shallowly, refusing to look at Al any more than she has to, though she can see her face in her peripheral vision. Alicia closes her eyes, unable to watch Luciana as she screams and even less able to look at Al or at the distraught John as he continues to saw.

 

“We need to hurry it up!” Morgan calls into the cabin. “There are more coming! I can’t hold them off alone!”

 

“Alicia,” June says.

 

“She can’t,” Al jumps in. “Her hands –”

 

“It’s just a little blood,” Alicia dismisses. “Luci, I’m sorry,” she says. She touches her fingertips to Luciana’s knee and stands, careful not to brush against Al on her way out. She knows Luciana understands. Or she will understand, later.

 

A horde of dead are just over the hill facing the ripped open back of the cabin. Alicia scans her surroundings again and –

 

“Morgan! I have an idea.”

 

Alicia grabs a heavy enough rock and uses it to set up the trip wires, pounding spike after spike into the ground in spite of her own exhaustion. It’ll at least buy them some time while June and John free Luciana. Where they go from there, of course, no one has bothered to mention, but Morgan will figure something out. At least, he better. Alicia just finishes setting up when the first dead reach them. They trip over the wire, as intended, and fall to the ground over one another. Morgan easily takes them out, and Alicia searches for another adequate weapon. Hopefully one that won’t slice her hands to shreds.

 

“She’s free,” Al says, emerging from the cabin. She must be talking to Morgan, because Alicia sure as hell isn’t paying attention to her. “We’ve got to move.”

 

“And how are we going to move Luci?” Alicia snaps. Morgan eyes her warily then sends his stick into the eye socket of another walking corpse.

 

“John and June are fashioning her a gurney,” Al says calmly. She glances over at Morgan than walks briskly up to Alicia. Alicia stiffens, but Al yanks something off her belt and holds it out to Alicia. “Found this.”

 

It’s Alicia’s gun barrel, sharpened to a point at the end. Alicia snatches it out of Al’s hand and clutches it to her chest. Alicia’s eyes lock with Al’s, and that’s all the thanks Al is getting. Alicia can’t help but notice the compact camera dangling at Al’s side. So she found the damn thing in the wreckage. Figures.

 

“How are we getting out of here?” Alicia demands.

 

“We’re going to walk, obviously,” Al calls from behind her.

 

Alicia ignores her. “Morgan.”

 

Morgan offers a small smile. “We’re going to walk,” he says. “We’ll find something along the way. A car to hotwire. We’ll find a way. We always do.”

 

That’s the problem. Just because they’ve always found a way before doesn’t mean they’re going to find a way now. Just because the dead didn’t rip them all limb from limb in the past doesn’t mean they won’t do it now.

 

John and June step out of the cabin carrying Luciana on the makeshift gurney, and Morgan rushes over to keep applying pressure to the wound.

 

“I’ve got the lead,” Alicia announces. “Althea, take up the rear.”

 

Al raises her eyebrows, and Alicia clearly reads I’m Althea now, huh? off her face but doesn’t outwardly react. Wouldn’t want to give anything away, Alicia thinks bitterly. She does as she said and leads the group in the most logical direction – that being, the direction with the least amount of dead. No one speaks until they step onto a road, littered with a few vehicles, including a pickup.

 

“Looks like it’s our lucky day,” John quips, but no one smiles. Alicia rushes forward to check that there’s no dead in the truck – there isn’t – then helps John and June heft Luciana into the truck bed. John and June climb up after, Morgan following suit before Alicia can protest.

 

“Alicia,” June calls. Alicia stops beside the passenger’s side door and turns back. June leans over the side, holding a roll of bandages, and Alicia takes the roll and nods. She hauls herself up into the passenger’s seat, and Al’s already at work hotwiring the truck. Alicia sets the gun barrel down by her feet and unravels the blood soaked bandages on her hands, tossing them out the window before rewrapping both her hands. Al doesn’t look at her, and Alicia pretends not to notice, staring out the windshield.

 

“Check the glovebox for a map,” Al says after a few minutes spent in near silence. Alicia complies as the engine roars to life. Al grins to herself, pushing her hand into her hair. She looks over at Alicia as she rummages through the glovebox and pulls out a map.

 

“Here,” Alicia says, dropping the map into Al’s lap. Al opens the map and locates their current position.

 

“The truck stop Logan’s people are held up at isn’t far,” Al informs. “We’ll be able to help Logan and treat Luciana. Kill two birds with one stone.” She passes the map back to Alicia. “Can you tell that to Morgan?”

 

Alicia leans out the open window and repeats what Al said to Morgan. He gives the go ahead, and they take off down the road. Al drives more carefully than usual, and she also glances over at Alicia every twenty seconds or so. Even if Alicia stares out the side window, she still notices.

 

“Stop staring at me,” Alicia finally says.

 

“I’m not staring at you. I’m driving. That requires me to look around.”

 

“You’re staring at me and you know it.”

 

Al smirks. “So what if I am?”

 

“You might want to be careful. Morgan might see you through the window and condemn us for daring to be happy,” Alicia mutters.

 

Al presses her lips together but doesn’t reply. The rest of the ride to the truck stop is in silence, apart from the few pained noises from Luciana when they hit particularly nasty bumps in the road.

 

Alicia’s eyebrows pull together as they pull up on the truck stop. She turns to look back out the window at Morgan, but she can’t see him. Maybe he’s looking at the same thing they are: the empty truck stop.

 

“This is it, right?” Alicia asks.

 

“It’s supposed to be,” Al replies.

 

“There’s no one here.”

 

“We don’t know that yet.”

 

Alicia rolls her eyes. Her gut tells her no one’s here. She trusts it. Al parks the truck, and they get Luciana inside once Alicia ensures there’s nothing waiting for them. June, John, and Morgan can handle Luciana. Alicia delves deeper into the truck stop, gun barrel in hand, searching for any sign of life. She finds a generator and fires it up, squinting against the sudden onslaught of artificial light. Once she’s convinced there’s nothing to find, she starts heading back.

 

She rounds a corner and gasps, holding on tighter to the barrel but thankfully not using it. Al startles and holds her hands out to steady Alicia, but Alicia knocks her hands away.

 

“Jesus!” Alicia exclaims. “Don’t sneak up on me like that.”

 

“I’m sorry,” Al says. “And…I’m sorry for not voting with you. You’re right. We shouldn’t have tried to fly.”

 

Alicia relaxes and leans against the wall. The exhaustion has set into her bones, and she wants nothing more than to be in her bed at the denim factory, God knows how many miles away from their current location. She wants to be at movie night, Strand sitting to her left, criticizing the movie under his breath but enjoying it all the same; Al sits on her right, letting her knee rest against Alicia’s, but that’s all. No hand holding. Nothing more than touching their knees together like they aren’t even aware it’s happening. Alicia always sneaks glances at Al, but Al never looks away from the screen. Not until the credits roll.

 

“There’s no one here,” Alicia says. “We should go see if June needs more help with Luciana.”

 

“Wait,” Al says, holding her arms out to block Alicia’s exit. “Hold on.”

 

“Why?” Alicia sighs.

 

“You are covered in blood,” Al says. “You should wash up. Let June look at your hands and that cut on your eyebrow when you’re done.”

 

“Fuck off. Let June look at your face.”

 

“My face stopped bleeding a long time ago.”

 

“So did my hands.”

 

“You bled a lot.”

 

Alicia glares, unable to think of something clever to say back. Maybe her exhaustion is partly due to her blood loss. Is that a thing? Honestly, she doesn’t think she’s lost that much blood. Most of the blood she’s wearing isn’t hers. She has to admit, being covered in the blood of a hundred different dead creatures isn’t exactly appealing.

 

“Can you just let me show some concern for you?” Al asks.

 

“You’re only doing it because no one else is around to hear it,” Alicia mutters. “Look, you don’t need to worry about me –”

 

“Of course I do.”

 

“Not if you’re going to keep hiding it,” Alicia retorts. “Not if you only care when we’re alone.”

 

Al chews on her lower lip. “Alicia, I –”

 

“Save it,” Alicia interrupts. “There’s shit to do. We have to contact Strand and find Logan and –”

 

“Can you just take a moment to stop worrying about the others and take care of yourself?” Al questions. “Clean up. Make sure none of those open wounds get infected. Then we can contact Strand and figure out where the hell Logan and his people are.”

 

Alicia nods curtly and sets off to do just that. Quickly. So she can try to radio Strand and determine why Logan isn’t at this truck stop when he said his people were trapped. Alicia washes the blood off her face, neck, and hands, consults with June about her wounds, and changes into less bloodied clothes before she joins John and Morgan at the radio.

 

“Strand?” Alicia questions.

 

“He’s aware of the situation,” Morgan assures her.

 

“And Logan?”

 

“Not answering,” Morgan admits. “Maybe something happened. It could be awhile before he responds. You should get some rest. You look beat.”

 

Alicia can’t even argue with him. She heads into the back of the truck stop and finds a quiet corner to hole up in, somewhere she can’t hear Luciana’s moans of pain or the John-and-June-lovefest or Morgan attempting to contact Logan every five minutes.

 

Al finds her. Of course she does. Al sets out to look for her once she’s sure the others doesn’t need her at the moment. With Luciana patched up and Logan not responding, she figures they won’t need her for a while. Finding Alicia doesn’t take long, and though Alicia’s dozing off, she jolts awake at the sound of boots on the concrete.

 

“Hey,” Al says.

 

Alicia swallows. “What?”

 

“What? I’m not allowed to see you?” Al replies, cracking a short-lived smile. “You don’t want to see me.”

 

“Not particularly.”

 

Al sighs. “So you’re just going to be mad forever? Because the group outvoted you, and I voted against you, and we landed –”

 

“Crashed.”

 

“– We crash landed in the middle of nowhere, and now Logan is MIA? You’re going to be mad forever?”

 

Alicia grunts. “No.”

 

Al takes a seat beside Alicia against the wall and lets her knee rest against Alicia’s. Alicia doesn’t look at her. Her hands ball into fists in her lap, even though it hurts, and she grits her teeth.

 

“Well, what’s it gonna take?” Al asks. “You want me to go tell the group about us? You want me to go announce to them that we’re in an ill-defined relationship of sorts and have been since, uh –”

 

“Since Nick died,” Alicia supplies.

 

“Yeah. Is that what it’s going to take? Because I’ll go do it, consequences be damned.”

 

“There are no consequences,” Alicia replies. “You’re just afraid of what they’ll think.”

 

“That isn’t –”

 

“I’m not having this argument again.”

 

“Alright. If I have to tell them so you won’t be mad, then –”

 

“Stop,” Alicia says. “Please. Just shut up.”

 

“Will you at least look at me?”

 

In spite of herself, Alicia turns her head to face Al. Alicia flinches but doesn’t look away. Alicia exhales and finds herself more tired than angry. She lets her head drop onto Al’s shoulder and closes her eyes. She reaches over, and Al takes her wrist, but Alicia shakes her hand off and captures it in her own despite the pain.

 

“Alicia –”

 

“Just hold my hand,” Alicia mumbles. Al doesn’t argue. Al isn’t sure of how much time passes as she sits on the hard concrete with Alicia’s head on her shoulder, hand clasped in hers. She lets Alicia sleep, even as footsteps approach their corner. June comes into view and stops walking, probably at how jarring it is to see Al and Alicia side by side, touching.

 

“She fell asleep,” Al explains.

 

“I was just…looking for the bathroom,” June says. “Um. Sorry.”

 

Al smiles and says, “The bathroom’s the other way.”

 

“Right.”

 

June doesn’t walk away immediately, so Al asks, “Any news on Logan?”

 

June hesitates. “Nothing that can’t wait until Alicia wakes up.”

 

Al nods as best she can with Alicia’s head on her. A smile flickers on June’s face before she turns and walks off. Before she turns the corner, though, she looks back and says, “You know, you guys would be pretty cute together.”

 

“Shut up!”

 

“Right. Sorry,” June says. She throws Al a wink and disappears, leaving Al to shake her head and continue to gingerly hold Alicia’s hand in hers. She wishes she hadn’t left her camera in the other room. She’d like to have this on film.