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what we talk about when we talk about whalers

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Then:

He decides not to tell anyone his first name, and he’s not sure whether it bothers him or not that no one asks. Not even Daud.

Not that he expected Daud to ask. He doesn’t really expect Daud to ask him anything other than, “Are you sure you can handle this?” and “Did you get the job done?” and he’s relieved that the answer to both questions is a definite, “Yes.”

It’s not that he doesn’t like his first name. It’s…okay, he supposes. Larabie. A solid name, his granddad’s, maybe a little old-fashioned but Jenkins kind of likes that. His granddad was Morley soldier who fathered seven kids after getting his leg and one of his testicles blown off in the war. If you’re going to be named after an old relative, that’s definitely the one you want.

But Larabie is what his mother called him. His father. His older sisters, and his baby brother, and he doesn’t HAVE a mother or a father or sisters or a brother anymore, so no, Jenkins doesn’t want to be Larabie anymore, he doesn’t want to be Larabie at all.

There wasn’t much left, after the fire. He found a little iron locket, one that belonged to his mother, and his brother Milo’s glasses. The rest was ash, or unsalvageable.

And it’s better, being Jenkins. Larabie was a soft, stupid kid. Larabie would’ve balked at killing, and Jenkins…doesn’t. Not anymore. Not after Daud yelled at them for twenty minutes about the appropriate use of sleeping poison. Larabie was scared of pain but Jenkins just grits his teeth through the worst of the tattoos, and Larabie’s dreams were haunted by fire and Jenkins…

Jenkins doesn’t dream. Not anymore.

No one asks his name, and he tells himself he’s relieved.

*

Now:

He’s on the roof when Eli finds him. The kid’s still getting used to his powers and he overshoots a lot, and even though it’s been years Jenkins still remembers what that was like. How terrifying it was when it was new, and how exhilarating. He grins in spite of himself, and offers the kid his flask.

“I just got Smith’s story,” Eli says, after he takes a sip and hands the flask back. “So that just leaves you.”

Jenkins tilts his head back. Cloudy night. Muddy stars. “Heh,” he says. “Good luck with that.”

Eli flops down next to him. “Not even your first name?”

And Jenkins blinks, because that’s not…that’s not a thing anyone asks. Not anymore. And he’s not planning to answer, but he remembers how lost Eli looked when they found him in that Rudshore apartment, the way Eli thanked him, later, for making him take a few mementos along, and so instead of a quip he just leans back on his hands and says, “Larabie,” and the name feels rusty and strange in his mouth.

“Huh,” Eli says after a moment. “You know, it suits you.”

“If you tell anyone,” Jenkins says, “I’ll cut your throat. I mean it.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” Eli says, clearly not taking him seriously in the least, and they lean against each other and watch the clouds until it gets too cold to stay outside.