come find me when you wake up
(that was how it was in Verdun. Now things are different - now there's another step:
it's a vital difference)
She realises, looking into his eyes, exactly what is going on. She sees herself looking back at her. The tired eyes, the confusion – the why me, the why do I get to watch everyone die again and again and again?
She knows that she’s probably going to die soon and he’s going to wake up exactly where he woke this morning; no blood, no guts, no death.
She yells at him and hopes that he will understand. Hopes that she will too – if he finds her, and tells her because she won't know, because in a few seconds she is going to be dead and then she will forget.
She wonders what she's letting him in for. She knows there's only one way this ends up. She wonders if this man she’s only just met will be strong enough to watch her die again and again and again. Because, sure as hell, he will have to.
Then the ship explodes. She dies, not for the first time and to him, not for the last.
She wakes up, just like him; no blood, no guts, no death.
No memory, either.
Every time it's the same.
No matter how far they go, no matter how things change between them, she dies, he dies, things reset and her memory goes with it.
When she can remember him, when they’re in the middle of the battle, or training or somewhere in France in a battered car; she knows exactly how it feels to be him, because she was, in essence. She died and died and died again and every time she woke up in the same place; her mind full of images and memories and nightmares for something that to everyone else never happened.
She understands him, and his clouded eyes and robotic body language. Can forgive him for the way he knows exactly what is going to happen before it does – because she was him, once.
She knows how much it can break your heart.
And then, the drop ship explodes or she gets shot or torn to pieces and she forgets it all.
One time, when they're in the farmhouse, and it's dark and cold and the damn helicopter won't work, she thinks about what might happen if they get it right.
What then? She’ll have a future, he’ll have a future.
She puts the thought out of her mind. And promises herself she’ll never think of it again.
But every time, her memory fades so it's a promise she can never keep.
Once, she dies so horribly, so painfully – she’s glad she will forget.
Once, he makes her tell him more than she's told anyone in a long time.
Then, later, when the mimics have attacked, she shoots him knowing that it means he will get to remember this, and she never will.
Once – once mind, or at least she thinks it's the first time –she lets him hold her.
This only happens once, he tells her later and she believes him. She can see the pain it caused him, written in his eyes.
Once, she dies, and then he dies.
Oh, sorry – every time, every time they die.
Once, they get separated on the beach and she watches him die from afar – he clearly hasn't been though this many times and his aim is a little off. She ends up alone in the caravan park, more by luck than design. She sits down for a little while, knowing she should just grab her pistol and end it all now.
She never considered what it was like for those left behind, not when she was in Verdun. She thought about herself, that was all.
Now, she thinks about all the people who die, every time, on this beach. About how she could have died hundreds of times for him and to her this is the first.
She wonders just how well he knows her.
She shivers, grabs her pistol.
The world goes black, pain ripples though her. She hopes to god she never thinks about that again.
It's one benefit of forgetting it all, she guesses – the horrors go away each time now, unlike Verdun, unlike for Cage, where the horrors get built on, get ingrained until you become desensitised, become able to look them in the eye. But even then, Rita might take forgetting over them.
When she sees on the news that the war is over, she doesn't believe it. She also doesn't know she gave her life so many times to help destroy it – that she helped to defeat the enemy, to end the war.
Then a man appears out of nowhere, a fantastical man with wild stories.
She looks him in the face, frowning. She recognises those eyes, but she can't place from where.
He smiles at her.
Over the coming days, weeks, months, this stranger who looks at her like she is the world tells her a series of stories, all containing a woman who is her but not her.
When he finally finishes, when he finally tells her everything – even the hard parts, even the parts that broke him – she looks at him, with tears in her eyes.
It's been nine months since a stranger began to tell her their story. He is no longer a stranger, and yet she thinks he will always know her better than she knows him. He does have the advantage of so much more time, after all.
She is – was - the Full Metal Bitch. She doesn't cry. But she does then.
Cage – he told her she never called him anything else – is lying beside her. The light is slanting through the windows, casting the room in a soft glow.
They are lovers – what did she expect? The man knows her inside out, and despite it being nine months since they met for her – he has known her for so much longer, has loved her for so much longer. It didn't take her long to fall in love with him in return – not when he knew everything about her, down to her darkest secrets.
She cries, though, because she can't remember. He tells her stories, memories for him – they are real, they happened and yet the Rita in them could be anyone - they are certainly not her. She knows that remembering would mean the blood and the guts and the death, but they would mean knowing him, too.
She cries because she can never remember.
Because it always went the same way – live, die, forget, repeat.
Because she will always be chasing the wisps of memories that don't exist.
But then she smiles, because at least she has now. At least they have now.