Chapter 1: Newton, Jane
Duck calls his sister and comes clean.
(Duck calls his sister and lets loose.)
The first thing he did when he got the time was make a phone call.
"Hey, you there?"
She didn't answer. Not immediately. That was fine coz she was about seven hours behind him here in Kepler. She was tired. He didn't blame her.
"Look, uh, some shit went — I'm — I don't — fuck!" His head hit the wall behind the corded phone on the wall of the Cryptonomica. "I just…"
"Are you okay?"
God. He had been doing so well. He had been compartmentalizing so so well and now? Now—?!
A rough sob escaped him, scraping the raw insides of his choking throat. His eyes stung.
God. God fucking shit. What the fuck would he even—? How?! How would he even—?
Was he allowed to? What was allowed now, after the fact?
Could he bring himself to say—?
"He — the funeral is tomorrow."
Fuck. Fuck fucking fuck. Shit. Cock shit fuck.
Her voice cracked. He'd forgotten that she grew up here too. She knew these people as much as he did. Fucking short-sighted goddamn fuckshit asshole!
He hadn't said his name since — since—
A hiccuping shuddery inhale rippled up through him. He sucked stuttering air through his teeth. Fucking goddammit.
"Fuck. Fucking hell, Duck. Are you gonna be okay?"
Million dollar question, ain't it?! Fucking million goddamn dollar question.
"I don't—? Jane." Her name was a plea. Stop talking. Please don't ask. But she wouldn't; it wasn't in her nature. She was an investigative journalist, after all. She cared for him, for so many people. She'd ask until she had her answer. "I could've done something! First it was Danimal and then it's Dewey and this guy, Boyd, and some of the Hornets and then it's — it's Ned and I couldn't do a goddamn thing because I wasn't there but I should have been! I could've saved him. I could've saved him…"
The silence on the other end speaks volumes. Jane was tenacious, loquacious, voracious. Now she was quiet, weighing her options and answers. Duck could hear her think, hear her put together pieces, hear her consider her path upwards and outwards.
"...tell me everything. No bullshit, Duck. I wanna know what the fuck is going on in Kepler and I wanna know what the fuck is going on with you."
Fuck though, not like this. God, fuck, he wants to hang up and run.
She wouldn't let him get away with it though.
Fucking Jane could wring the truth from a rock if given the time. Always could. Always will.
"D'you remember when I would wake up screaming? When I would talk to someone who wasn't there? When shit started getting bad at school and home and so on?" Silence. Confirmation. "There was a wormhole in the back of my head. Linked me to an alien woman on an alien world. Gave me prophetic dreams of shit that would happen. Bad fucking shit. And me? I was Chosen."
A soft sigh. Pity? Hard to tell.
"I got this whipsword thing when I was nineteen. Name of Beacon; a right smartass but he's saved me too many times to count. I didn't want it though, Jane. I wanted to run and be free coz there was so much fucking soup I hadn't eaten, so much I hadn't done and I was a kid and I was scared and Minnie, Minerva, this alien woman who had been trying to get me to be something more, was saying I was special and Chosen and born to be something great." He hiccupped, inhaled, skipped like a broken record. "I stopped talking to her. Minnie. I jammed Beacon into my underwear drawer and ignored him too. Became a ranger. Lived my life."
No, don't interrupt. Not now. Not now.
"Ned took Beacon off my hands one night during a bender. Didn't need him, did I? And then — fucking eight months ago, there was this bear. Only it wasn't a bear."
Did she believe him? Did she think he was crazy? Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.
"Ned helped kill it. Ned and this gal, Aubrey. God fucking shit, Janey, you'd fucking love her. She's a magician. Big rabbit she loves to death. But she can do real-ass magic. Heal and set fire to things and wind and ice. So much. She can do real magic."
It was so hard. So so hard. He had to.
"I had a wormhole in my head that made me special and a sword that talked like some kind of sadist. Aubrey can do magic with her fucking mind. Ned was just a guy and—"
"There's a Gate in Kepler. Minnie's world ain't the only one out there. The one that's linked to ours is called Sylvain and it is dying because of humans coming through and ripping apart their source of life. And the not-bear, the monster made of water, the fucking tree — they kept trying to break through and fuck up this tenuous balance that's been kept for fuck knows how long."
She didn't speak but he heard her shifting sideways in bed. He heard her grab a pen and paper. He heard her exhale and start writing in her janky shorthand she used for notes.
"Every full moon something tried to get through. Something that wasn't human or Sylph. Abominations. Every full moon the three of us—Ned. Aubrey, and me—would fight them back so no one would be hurt And this one — this one was a shape changer." Raw. Rubbed raw. "Ned got shot saving Dani. You'd call her a vampire but she's a Sylph and this thing had been starving her until she lost herself and Ned didn't — he didn't want her to be hurt—"
He hadn't been there. He'd been fighting alongside Minerva when it'd happened. He could've saved him if he'd just fucking been there.
But he wasn't.
"Pigeon, Vicki's gal? Pigeon got spooked and shot him. He was cold when I got back." It hurt. It hurt so bad to dredge this back up, even so soon after. He wasn't sure it'd ever stop hurting. "I was helping Minnie and killing the Abomination proper, being some big-shot hero, when Ned...died…"
He couldn't any more.
He started sobbing—not like he hadn't been crying so far, coz he had been quietly weeping—and had to pull the phone away from his face for a moment.
No one else was here, inside the 'Nomica. He was alone. Him and his sister.
Please don't pity me. Please please don't pity me.
"You think you can host me on the couch?"
No no no no no.
"I'm gonna get a fast track to you. I'm gonna come to Kepler and I'm gonna fucking hold you tight, okay?" Sweet fucking Jane. Goddamn she was always the better of the two of them. "And you and I will talk, just like old times, and have fucking pizza and shit, okay? And you can cry and I'll be there."
He didn't fucking deserve her. Fucking shit goddamn hell. She was too good for any of them.
"I'll shoot you a message when I'm out, okay? Should be about a day, but we'll see. Just, chin up, alright?"
"It's not your fault."
It sure didn't fucking feel that way.
Chapter 2: Little, Trevor
Aubrey calls her dad and tells him the truth.
(Aubrey calls her dad and lies by omission and technicality.)
This one was longer but, as expected, just as sad.
Exercising the headcanon that Aubrey and her dad haven't talked since her mom's funeral.
Family is hard, isn't it?
It took courage to reenter the Cryptonomica. Courage and fucking guts.
How dare she stand where he stood? How dare she come back after what she did?!
But she couldn't be at Amnesty Lodge right now. Too many people. Too much noise. She was alone in her head, fighting to keep her emotions at bay. She had to perform for them.
Ladies, gentlemen, and those who are neither or both! Today the Lady Flame will amaze and astound you with her most daring and bold maneuver of all: pretending that everything is all right!
It wouldn't work. She was too exhausted to pretend to smile. The mask was slipping.
She just needed to be Aubrey Little for a while.
But courage notwithstanding, she needed to make a call and this was the only other phone she had access to, aside from the one at Amnesty. So she dialed, listening to the tone, and softly apologized the 'Nomica for the small burns on the wall.
Even now she couldn't get her magic to do what she wanted.
Useless useless useless.
"Trevor Little, how can I help you?"
Her throat closed off.
Fucking hell, she hadn't talked to her dad in years. Sure, she sent emails and postcards and little reminders that she was alive—and fuck, the guilt about that alone was enough to strip flesh from bones—but a call? Face-to-face? Not a snowball's chance in Hell. Something about his face, the way that his pupils still didn't dilate right, the fact that him and mom looked so in love when she last saw them, take your pick. She couldn't bear to hear him talk, let alone see him.
Again she had—
"Hello?" He asked again, testing the line. She could imagine the way his face furrowed, brows pinching as the corner of his mouth pulled down to express disapproval. Crossed arms, the phone tucked between his cheek and shoulder.
She choked out, "Dad?"
Exhalation. Relief? Pain? Confusion?
Did she even know how to read him any more? Or was that a skill that faded with the seven or so years of separation and radio silence?
Fuck. Fucking hell.
She hadn't expected it to feel like this. Hearing him again. She hadn't expected to feel so...empty.
She hoped that hearing his voice would make her feel safe.
No anger. No frustration. No sadness.
No warmth. No safety. No relief.
And the nothing was so goddamn familiar that her mouth started to water, the precursor to sour bile.
"Aubrey? Is that you? Honey, please don't hang up."
Yeah, don't hang up. Don't leave. Don't go.
She swallowed and opened her mouth. Chapped lips pulled at each other, a web of spit lacing the back of her teeth. "I'm still here, dad."
"H-how are you? It's been…" forever, too long, a nightmare, you left me, you ran after she died, never looked back, abandoned everything that reminded you of her, "...a while."
"That's an understatement." It's easy to lie with flippancy. It's easy to lie through humor. She can perform, pretend, be Aubrey Little. She can do this for him.
"Yeah…" You could cut the tension with a knife. It choked her.
"I just — I'm in West Virginia right now, actually." Small steps. Small truths.
"Really? What's the weather like in Mothman country?"
She doesn't have time to stifle the laugh that bubbles up and out. She wonders if Indrid knows people call it that. He probably does. He probably hates it.
That'd be fair, all things considered.
"Cold. I learned how to ski. Made some friends." Truth. Truth. Truth. "How's it back home?"
"Same as always." The formality cuts more than anything else. She expected talking to her dad to be hard but—
It's like talking to a stranger or someone offering up a gig. Less like family — like Duck or Barclay or Mama or Dani or Jake or fucking Ned — and more like Penn over at the bank or Sheriff Zeke or Agent Stern. Distant. Careful.
"You made friends up there? How long have you been in state?" Always pegged you for a wanderer, he didn't say. She could read it in the words between his words. Didn't expect you'd ever stop running, he didn't accuse.
"Yeah, I did. It's been like...eight months, about. Came up around July and haven't left since. Kepler's nice, dad. I think you'd like it here." Truth. Truth. Truth. He loved the small-town aesthetic that Mama's family home never afforded. Used to joke that he was more raised by the apartment complex than his actual parents but…
"One town? Someone special then?" An anchor to keep you from leaving?
"Yeah...her name is Dani. She a gardener and artist." Truth. Truth. Lie by omission. Dani hadn't left her room all week. Felt guilty after Barclay wrestled her into the springs and she came to. Kept crying. Wouldn't look anyone in the eyes. Aubrey had to pick her lock to even get a conversation in, and even that was stilted and angry.
"Sounds lovely." I'd love to meet her.
Silence ensued. Dark, empty. It mirrored the hole inside of her chest. The longing she wanted for comfort.
"What brought on this call?" You didn't want to talk before. What changed?
"I —" The big picture. The hard truth. The choice. "I — daddy…" Her words caught on the edges of the hole in her chest. Again, she found her thoughts burning against the fear of hate and rejection and not again, never again, god, fucking not again. "Do you remember that night?"
Dig in. Dig up.
Every time you looked at me and didn't say anything, you were lying to me.
His breathing caught too. Good, the sadist in her, the part that sung with pain, sneered. Join me. Feel bad. I don't want to be alone like this.
"I...yeah." Heavy is the head, the breath, the shoulders. His words are boulders dropping into a lake. She feels like the catapult launching them back. "Every year I think about it. What I could have done better. How I could've protected you — protected you both."
"I met one of the men that was there that night." Truth. Met was an understatement, but truth. "One of the thieves."
I'm not a robber.
She'd honor that distinction.
"Daddy," the word was bladed to draw his attention. It worked, cutting off his question midway. "I met him. Lived in the same town as him for a long time before I knew but — I met him. He was —" It hurt. It would always hurt.
She had thought it hurt before, when she thought it was her fault. This time, she knew it was her fault.
"His name was Edmund Kelly Chicane and he was a goddamn fool."
Could he hear the familiarity? Could he hear the pain? Did he know that it wasn't that she met one of the men that inadvertently killed her mother, but that she had known him and lost him?
"He ran this little tourist trap, a cryptozoology 'museum' here in Kepler. Honest money as far as I could tell. At least, as honest as a tourist trap gets."
Keep going. Truth. Tell the fucking truth.
"How did he—?"
"Apparently, that night he dragged you and me out of the house. Saved us. Then his partner crashed the car and he left him to take the fall. Found Kepler and lived here ever since." Truth. Truth. Speculation. Ned never confirmed what happened to his partner, to Boyd Mosche, save that he went to jail and just got out. "And I didn't know when I met him, nor did he, but we found each other here. Fell in the same crowd."
"Aubrey," he started. She could hear the millions of ways this could go. Aubrey, did you do something? Aubrey, did you get in trouble? Aubrey, are you okay? Aubrey, why?
Was this what it was like for Indrid? Having the futures laid bare before him? Unable to parse the most likely situation until it happened?
"Before you say anything dad, I didn't. I don't fucking steal shit, nor would I fall in with mob types. You should know better." Ask forgiveness instead of permission. Cut him off at the pass. Keep going. "We — we were part of a group. A club of sorts. And he — I got mom's necklace back."
There. She could hear his heart break. She could hear him relax. Not yet. Not yet.
"He got shot. Hunting accident." Truth. Lie by a technicality. "The funeral is soon and, dad?" She could feel it rise again. The panic. The fear. The ugly black bile of all your fucking fault. It had buried itself under the anger of listen to me and don't interrupt. It had hidden in the veneer of let me catch you up. But it was there, visible, ugly. Her mouth watered again. Sweet spit to precede sour vomit. "It was my fault dad. For real this time."
"Aubrey." How can someone make a word sound so much like a plea and an apology at the same time? How can someone say a name with reverence and love like that?
How could he love her when her hands are bloodied like this?
"It is though!" Red. Iron and copper. Sweet and heavy. She could smell smoke. Control. Control. "I found out, dad, and I confronted him. Told him I hated him for keeping it from me. That I hated him. That he was a fucking thief and a liar and I never wanted to see him again. That he should run just like he did that night and that he would have to live with the guilt forever and ever." They were coming fast now; a waterfall of words tumbled rough on her teeth.
She can hear him want to stop her. Want to tell her it's okay. Want to comfort her. She cuts him off at the pass. Not today motherfucker. Not now, when she has the courage to say the truth. When she doesn't have the control to stop it from coming out.
"I told him I hated him and he died trying to save someone. He took a bullet for her, for Dani. He saved her and the last thing I said to him — the last — daddy, I —!" Hiccuping. Gasping. She stuttered, stammered, sputtered. "— I —"
Her vision swam. She was drowning, suffocating, burning. Was the smoke in her nose from the rampant magic beneath her skin or was it a memory? She couldn't — couldn't — her breath — her chest—
"Aubrey Little, you listen to me and you listen good!" His voice, a knife through the haze, snapped like a whip. "Your last words to this...Ned, they don't make this your fault."
They do. She told him to leave and he felt like he shouldn't out of obligation, guilt, penance.
"He decided to stay, to save Dani. He decided to do what he did, not you."
He knew. He knew she meant so much to her. He knew she was precious and wanted her to be safe. He took that blow because he knew she loved her.
"It's not like you could've undone what happened. You couldn't've known he would do that."
She did, though. Ned had saved her and Duck time and time again. The pool, the springs, H2Whoa!, Leo's, the morgue. He never stopped taking blows he shouldn't. Blows she or Duck could've shrugged off. She just blinded herself to the possibility that one day he wouldn't get back up.
"You didn't fire the gun—" that was Pigeon, who didn't stop shaking until she was unconscious in bed, eyes wide and filled with tears "—you didn't put him in that position—" that was the Hornets, the town, and the fucking Abomination, gathered at the Gate when they shouldn't've been there in the first fucking place "—and you couldn't've saved him if it was a hunting rifle—" a fucking lie. She had magic. She could've done so much more but it wouldn't listen. Her magic abandoned her when she needed it. "This isn't your fault, Aubrey. Don't you dare place that blame on your shoulders."
It was too late though. The blame was there.
Pigeon was scared. She was scared and had a gun. She didn't know. She thought she was helping. Not her fault.
The Hornets and the town were reacting. They didn't have the full picture and, sure, she tried, but she could've stayed and convinced them instead of running to Sylvain. Not theirs either.
The Abomination was a creature. Manipulative and wild, sure, but acting on some instinct none of them understood. Whether it was the Quell that hammered at the barrier around Sylvain proper or the Corruption that spoke through Thacker or some third thing, the Abomination was moving as it was instructed. And you couldn't blame a bear for mauling a human who got too close. Even if you really, really wanted to.
Her magic was hers though. Her magic was her. She was at fault.
All her fucking fault.
She didn't even notice she had been crying until the ringing in her ears cleared enough for her to hear her jagged, staggered sobbing. She didn't even notice the flames around her hands had changed, ice creeping across the scorched wall, until the burning cold shocked her nerves.
She gasped. "I just —" Stop. Start over. "Does it get any easier? Does it ever stop?!"
Will I ever be able to forgive myself without forgetting?
"Baby," his not-answer was enough. The honey warmth of his comfort wicked off her. "Baby girl."
She let herself cry a bit longer. Let herself sit, in the place where she last spoke to him, with her dad on the other line. It felt—
It felt empty.
"Do you want me there? I can find a place—"
"No." Just because this one was gone didn't mean the others were. It didn't mean Sylvain was safe. It didn't mean the Gate was gone. It didn't mean bunk.
She wouldn't put him in that position.
"How can I reach you?" If you need me, I'm here. If you need me. If you need me.
If. If. If.
"I'm staying at Amnesty Lodge. They've — they have a website with the number. Room 208. Kepler's in the National Radio Quiet Zone, after all, so my cell isn't allowed in a chunk of the area." I don't get reception in Sylvain and, if I did, the roaming charges would be awful. "If a guy named Barclay picks up, or some lady named Mama, then leave me a message, okay? I'll call you back when I can."
"How much longer do you think you'll be in Kepler?" Will you come home? Come back to me? See me?
"I don't know, dad." I can't abandon my duties. I owe him this much. "A while, probably. Maybe forever."
"Will you let me know when you want me to visit? I think I still have some of your old things." If you're gonna move in, let me see your home. Let me be a part of your home, even by proxy. Let me meet the place that makes you happy, that sakes your wanderlust.
"Yeah. I'll give you a ring." Panic still sat, pressing thin fingers through her ribs, digging spines into her lungs, keening for attention. She ignored it, put on her mask, pretended through the pain.
Ladies, gentlemen, and those who are neither or both, the Lady Flame!
Look at her smile as her world burns to ash!
Her body shook with stifled sobs. Her voice was thick with pain.
She smiled anyway.
"I love you Aubrey. Don't you ever forget."
"I won't. Love you too, dad."
"Talk to you later." She hung up.
And she checked out, leaning against the wall.
And she cried, full and forceful.
Because it was her fault. It was it was it was!
And she'd never forget, that's for damn sure.
She owed him that much, after all.
Chapter 3: Kirby, Jackson
Pigeon makes amends.
(Pigeon soldiers on.)
It ended happier than I expected it to. Not a resolution per se, but something. A resonance of feelings.
Hope it satisfies.
Her hands shook.
In her hands, smoking slightly, and he was red red red red—!
She hammered the numbers out. One by one, like each was a death-sentence. They screamed out your fault with each individual tone. Ten times. All your fault.
Dial-tone. White noise while she sank back into the mire of her brain. Simple static. Calming. Fine. It was fine.
White and orange and blonde. Flying, a cape, wings. Arm outstretched, claws, fingers and teeth bared, snarling. And she, in panic, jerked. He, surprised, jerked. A wing spread out, only one, a bright rust—!
She jolted, almost dropping the receiver.
Of course he wouldn't want anyone calling. Especially not from Amnesty but—
She couldn't do this to his face. She wouldn't make it, even if he did let her in or even entertain her idiot fucking idea.
So she swallowed her anxieties and opened her mouth.
"Fucking talk or don't, I don't have time for this. I've got a business to run so if you're just gonna fucking call and send me your thoughts and prayers you can fuck off. Every last one of you."
"Let me help." It — fuck! She hadn't meant it to be so forceful but —
His dry laugh—barely even a laugh—rattled through the tinny speaker. "Oh really? Why?"
"I — I put you here." I did it. I did it. "So it's only right I help you out." Penance. Penitence. Say your hail Marys, Pigeon, and thank the Father. I have sinned and must atone.
There's a moment where she thinks he didn't hear her. Then he inhales and it is dry as a desert as her dreamscapes as his skin, cold and clammy, and the steel and wood in her grip with the iron bite of—
"It won't help."
This gave her pause.
"The guilt, the dreams, the feeling like you could've done something more, that somehow this was all your fault, that you deserve to be punished? That won't go away because you're sorry and they sure as shit won't go away just because you're trying to help." He laughed, once, precise. She could feel her hackles rise. "You can't unfuck this spilt milk back in the bag, Pidge. No use trying if you're not sincere anyway, it'll only end in tears."
"And trying to help is bad?!" Nerves buried under anger, she snapped at him. "Trying to do good is bad?! Should I just get back to writing my cryptid shitrag? Peddle wares to tourists who don't know the proprietor of the business they're at just passed away? Bury my head in the sand?! At least I'm trying, Kirby!"
A shot. Just one. Only one. Always one.
That's all it takes. That's all it took.
He hissed back at her. "I am doing my best. No doubt about that! But I am also aware that participating in the Pity Olympics won't help anyone! You think you're the only one who feels that way? Like they let him down?!"
It wasn't a physical blow, but she staggered like it was. She for fucking sure didn't! How dare he assume she was so short sighted?!
"God fucking knows everyone here could place Gold! I feel like I could've told them from the get-go, when that thing took his face and recorded that advert. I knew it wasn't him but I didn't know why and I said nothing! That's how history is made, Pidge, and that's how I fucking feel!"
He hadn't known the extent of things, though, had he? He hadn't known the manipulation, the strings, the theory of it all! So why would he—?
"Duck thinks he should've been there and feels bad he wasn't. Thinks his killing that fucking thing up by the Observatory with his alien mentor was just playing hero."
Duck?! Duck did more that day than any of them could know! Minerva was useful, a strong strategist and powerful woman, and Duck was the reason she was here and the reason Leo was still around! He did so much for so many folks!
"Aubrey thinks she killed him. Not by action, but by inaction. She thinks she wanted him to die and her magic obliged."
Aubrey would never! She screamed till she was hoarse, tried to quell the riot before heading in to the Gate, and had stopped the other side from taking the literal peak of their literal mountain! How was that wanting him to die?! She was just stretched thin!
"Mama thinks if she'd cared more or not kept it so damn secret, the mob mentality might not have set in so bad and folks might've been more prepared. Stern thinks he made the tension worse by being there, setting off the whole rhythm of things. Dani thinks she did it by getting caught and trying to eat him."
Mama was spinning too many plates though, with the lodge, the residents, the Gate, the Abominations, and her art! Stern was just doing his job, even if his job wasn't right at the time. Dani was fucking kidnapped?!
"Hollis wonders if they'd listened to Aubrey before, if that would've prevented it in the end. Sheriff Owens thinks he's bad at his job since so many folks died, even if Dewey didn't stay that way." His voice was tense, jaw clenched. He was talking through his teeth.
Hollis and the Hornets were the calmest part of the mob! Sheriff Owens had been the reason things cleared out as fast as they had. Why would they even—?
Oh. The Pity Olympics.
Makes fucking sense now.
Doesn't make her hafta like it.
"I still want to help," she said through bared teeth. "Whether or not you want me to."
Absolution. Absolution. Let me feel better about it.
"How?" His voice cracked. All the pain was squeezed out of him, tired, done with everything. "How the fuck could you help? How could you make this any easier?! You're hurting too! Don't, I dunno, fucking neglect yourself to help others!"
It takes a village, don't it? Don't it?
"Fucking hire me, asshole. I'll work your shift, you work his, recover, learn the ropes, and the two of us can fix this shit. Or," she shrugged, swallowed, smiled even if he couldn't see her, "at least cope?"
He laughed. Or, no, he exhaled once through his nose. It was laugh-adjacent, ain't it? "Cope."
Fair. Fair fair fair.
"Let the town help you." The words felt fake but, they needed to be said. "Let us help you. I don't think there's a damn person in town who wouldn't want to keep the 'Nomica afloat, but you gotta let us, Kirby."
Let me help you. Let me repent. It's selfish and she knows it but there's nothing wrong with it. Nothing wrong with being selfish. It ain't the Pity Olympics, after all.
She's allowed to want to feel better.
Even if it means using her 'helpfulness' as a front.
She's gonna do it.
He sniffled. "Fine. Sure. Fuck it." He sniffled again. Breathy. "You start monday. Seven AM. If you're late you owe me an RC, aight?"
She laughed, soft, an exhale like he did before. "Sure. Glass bottle instead of the cans in the vending machine you hacked?"
"Bring me a six pack of glass bottles and I'll let you nap on the job."
It's something. Not great. Not perfect. There's a void. A blank. A hole where someone used to be. Where she took him out, forcefully, with a goddamn gun.
She let the silence blanket them for a moment before adding in. "Hey, Kirby?"
"If you need anything—and I mean it, fucking anything—lemme know. Bean me upside the noggin with a brick that has a note attached to it, if you have to get my attention that way. I won't hesitate, bitch."
He laughed. The meme got him. Nice.
"Sure. Will do." A beat. "Talk to you later?"
"Only if you wanna."
It's not fixed. It won't ever be 'fixed' but that's fine. That's fine.
It's gonna be fine.
(Even if it's not now. Even if it takes a long while. Even if she'll never be over it, one day it will be okay.)