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Claudette was panting loudly as she sprinted towards the open exit gate. Her blood was dripping onto the glowing earth and the bandages she’d already applied to her other wounds were becoming increasingly soaked with blood and sweat. She was exhausted, especially after having used the last bits of her energy jumping forward to narrowly evade the Nurse’s blade. ‘I really have to thank David for teaching me that,’ she thought to herself, only looking back to see the Nurse black out temporarily, which allowed her to create an even greater distance between herself and the killer. Claudette almost tripped and twisted her ankle when she misstepped and needed to jump over a rusted barrel, but she landed properly. The exit gate was only a couple metres away and the heartbeat in her ears had slowed down a bit as well. The French woman noticed her fellow survivors standing between the brick columns and realised that they had actually been waiting for her. It sparked hope within her.

“Come on, Claudette! We’ll cover for you!” Meg was now running towards her and Ace followed shortly. Dwight stayed within the exit area in case the Nurse blinked past the others. They had had a shit trial already, with NOED having popped and were very intent on getting everyone out and not allowing the Nurse the chance to mindgame any of them. The telltale sound of the killer preparing to teleport sent a shiver down Claudette’s spine, but both Ace and Meg had her back and pulled her along towards the exit.

Indeed, the Nurse had blinked into the exit area, but Dwight faithfully took a hit for Claudette and then they all had crossed the border out of the trial. Claudette swore she could hear the Nurse cry out in frustration.

“Suck it, bitch,” Meg yelled at the killer behind the barrier with a wide grin on her face, before she turned and carefully wrapping an arm around her friend to support her on their way back to Camp.

.:’:. .:’:. .:’:.

Heading back to Camp had always been a bit of a vague experience, but this time Claudette was sure she’d passed out halfway through the trip because she woke up, woke up , at Camp. She was laying on her side and cold fingers were gently stroking her face. Claudette’s limbs were stiff and her whole body felt bruised when she moved her hand to hold the one caressing her cheek. Their fingers immediately interlaced and she smiled.

“Mornin’ hun,” Kate said and Claudette opened her eyes to look at the other woman. Kate was sitting against one of the logs with a smile on her face, but it was more one of sad relief than anything else.  “You been out for a while, babe,” she began. “Folks were gettin’ worried.” Claudette briefly squeezed Kate’s hand and hummed.

“I was very tired, ma chérie. It was a long trial…” Kate nodded in response as she scooted over to Claudette, who immediately turned onto her back and rested her head atop the American’s lap. Their entwined hands rested atop Claudette’s chest and Kate’s free hand moved to the other’s hair, petting and twirling her fingers around the soft curls. The Frenchwoman smiled an even brighter smile at her partner, practically melting into the touch, her wounds and bruises temporarily forgotten. “I’m alright now, though,” she continued, “I made it out alive and you’re here instead of in a trial. That’s always... une grâce, y’know?” Kate’s immediate reply was a soft and private chuckle. The American bowed down so she could press her forehead against Claudette’s.

“I know, hun. You’re a real gem, by the way. Dwight told me y’all were up against that damn Nurse and ya kept her busy while they got rid of her Hex and opened the gates. I woulda never been able to buy the others that much time. Well done, baby.” Kate pressed a kiss between her partner’s eyes and sat up again. “Y’alright, though? You were still bleedin’ a lot when ya came back. I replaced some of them bandages, but you’re better at dressin’ wounds yerself, darlin’,” the American said, reluctantly pulling her hands away from Claudette, who groaned but rolled into a sitting position regardless. Her limbs really did feel stiff, a result of both being hurt and of sleeping a couple metres away from the campfire. The neverending nights in this Hell were chilly and caused cramped-up muscles if you didn’t keep yourself warm one way or another.

“Merde...” Claudette whined as she stretched her arms up high above her head. Kate patted her shoulder and got up to fetch her partner a medkit. Claudette made sure to pop whatever joints could be popped and smiled lazily when Kate dropped the medkit in her lap. “Thanks, mon amour.” The other woman just grinned and smoothly positioned her guitar as she plopped down onto the ground next to her.

“You’re gonna sing?” The French woman inquired happily, looking forward to hearing her partner sing while she tended to her wounds. Kate hummed that ‘yes, she is’ and started to tune her guitar. Claudette rummaged around the medkit and found some clean bandages, antiseptic and a needle and thread she’d need to stitch the gash on her arm. With a huff, she pulled her shirt over her head and quickly reminded herself that everyone had pretty much seen each other naked by now, so sitting in your bra and pants really wasn’t anything to be ashamed of. The fabric was slightly stuck to the wound, causing a soft hiss to slip past Claudette’s lips, but she persevered. ‘Better to just get this over with,’ she thought.

Medical stuff was boring. Combining medical stuff with plants, however, was very interesting. Claudette opened the pouch she always carried on her hip and filtered through the different ziploc bags until she found what she needed. The Piper excelsum or Kawakawa for short. She opened the plastic bag and took out two leaves along with the white plastic ‘mini mortar and pestle’. Kate swore from her position beside the French woman when her guitar didn’t sound right yet, but Claudette was focused on crushing the leaves and adding the right amount of water. The pulp was quickly prepared and she quickly cleaned the needle and thread with the antiseptic. The gash on her arm was long yet straight and the stinging of the needle and alcohol was… not so bad, really, but Claudette still distracted herself by recounting what she was grateful for.

First of all, Kate.

Second of all, arriving here with her complete collection of herbs and edible flowers.

Third of all, every single one of them (her friends and plants) reappearing after perishing.

Fourth of all, an unlimited source of water and a lack of hunger.

And then… Claudette couldn’t come up with any other blessings, mainly because she suddenly realised how much worse it’d be if they got hungry as well and she hadn’t seen any other living animals except for those damn crows. She shivered, pushed the thought from her mind and went back to the task at hand. The thread was easily tied and then cut off, allowing the Frenchwoman to apply the green pulp which would keep her wound from infecting, hurting and it just sped up the healing process in general.

Claudette started wrapping a light bandage around it to make sure that the injury stayed clean and wouldn’t scrape against any other objects. The movement of bandaging wounds was… soothing in a way and it made her eager to renew her other bandages.

Wrap it up, cut and secure. Wrap, cut, secure.

 

Grew up in a world full of abuse,
Was told it was wrong to love whoever I love.
But it can no longer be an excuse,
To keep myself from fully loving you.

 

Claudette snapped out of her trance and looked up from her task to see Kate sitting with her eyes closed, eyebrows scrunched up in a concentrated frown. Kate usually wasn’t one to use the word ‘love’ in any of her songs, so it caught Claudette’s attention.

 

You had me wrapped around your finger,
From the moment you first spoke to me.
You turned me back into a singer,
And now my lyrics are soft and real.

 

‘This is new,’ Claudette thought, and quickly finished tending to her injuries. The Frenchwoman stuffed whatever bandages were left into the medkit and, when she looked up, met Kate’s eyes. The American looked relaxed and open . She looked vulnerable. Suddenly the next lyrics felt… direct. Directed towards Claudette, who ducked her head and scooted over to sit closer to Kate.

 

You are my muse, lovely in every single way,
You’re the one that gets me through the day.

 

Kate bumped her head gently against Claudette’s who, in turn, leaned against her partner as she continued to let the words flow with the gentle sound of her guitar. It was so very soothing and Claudette wished she could hear Kate play and sing forever.

 

Maybe if things’d been different and well,
We’d met in a different scene and then,
Maybe, we could’ve heard the wedding bell
Ring for us, my dear....

 

Claudette’s breath hitched and she almost got a whiplash from turning her head so quickly to face Kate. The American was already looking at her, her fingers continuing to play that gentle tune on the wooden instrument.

“Kate?” Claudette inquired, her voice soft but serious. Kate smiled at the Frenchwoman and tilted her head.

“Y’know I ain’t ever been good at talking without the sounds of a guitar to mask it all, baby,” Kate said quietly. “But… I trust you with my life and I know marriage won’t mean shit here but-”

Claudette gently pushed the guitars out of Kate’s hands and pressed her forehead against hers. “Yes,” Claudette whispered. “Yes, it might not mean something here, but I want to make it real and longterm and complete.” Her hands found their way to Kate’s cheeks and she just held her partner there. “You make me complete,” Claudette added, her eyes slightly burning.

Kate pressed her lips against Claudette’s and if both of their faces were wet with tears, they couldn’t have been bothered. This meant a lot to Kate, who had grown up in a homophobic and hurtful environment, though the same could be said about Claudette. It didn’t really matter that it wouldn’t make that much of a difference in this Hell, but at least they’d found happiness . They had found each other. They broke the kiss, but kept their foreheads pressed to each other.

“It’s a bit awkward, though,” Claudette began and grinned. “I, uh. Mon Dieu,” she muttered. The French woman pressed a kiss on Kate’s nose and then climbed to her feet. “Don’t move,” she said sternly and looked over to Jake. “I’ll be right back.”

Jake, usually as quiet as possible, broke out in laughter and felt tears streaming down his face. “She was faster than you! God,” he chuckled and pulled his friend close for a tight hug. “Congrats, Claude, I’m happy for you. I told you, didn’t I? You shouldn’t have worried about her saying ‘yes’, she’s just as crazy about you as you are about her…” Claudette grinned in response and ruffled Jake’s hair, who whined something about his ‘manbun needing to survive’. The Korean then kneeled down to rummage through his duffelbag until he found the black cloth bag. “Here you go, hun. Be careful with ‘em, alright? Took me some time to make.” Claudette pressed a quick kiss on Jake’s cheek and then sprinted back to Kate, the stiffness in her bones long forgotten.

.:’:. .:’:. .:’:.

Nothing much had changed. The others didn’t even realise it, until the Entity had granted everyone alcohol and snacks and Claudette and Kate had used that opportunity to tell the rest. The wedding wasn’t much, nothing too new or luxurious. Kate had taken her guitar to the campfire and started to lay down a basic tune, which slowly became more rich as survivors added beats by either clapping, drumming or whatever. The whole thing resulted in a long rap battle, followed by people rolling over the ground crying from laughter. Everyone felt a little more whole that night, but Claudette and Kate were practically glowing from happiness.

And it was only when Claudette and Kate had fallen asleep holding hands, that the others noticed the matching wooden rings on their fingers.