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out in the drowning deep

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The world ends.

The world fucking ends, and all Basira thinks is: okay. Hold it together.

She’s been trying to hold it together for too long, is the first problem. ‘It’: herself, the Archives, Jon, Daisy, the whole damn world. The threat of exactly this happening is what she’d used to try and keep it all stapled together. Now that the apocalypse is actually here--the sky blinking, the earth opening up, horrors pouring out of every crack in the world--she can feel herself coming apart at the seams. Melanie’s gone. Jon’s gone, Martin’s gone. Daisy’s worse than gone. Who’s left to keep held together for? Who’s left to protect?

The second problem is that she knows the answer. It’s why she became a bloody copper in the first place. Who’s left to take care of, when everyone you care about is gone? 

Everyone else.

So when the world ends, Basira doesn’t fall apart. She gives herself ten minutes to shake, because she can’t not--but the first time she hears a scream that sounds agonized rather than terrified coming from outside, she makes herself stand on wobbly legs, drink some water, take the safety off her gun. The act of doing so grounds her, even if she can’t make her hands stop trembling. She shoves some random necessities into a knapsack--energy bars, first aid kit, package of sanitary pads to use as extra bandages, every knife in her kitchen block, torch, spare batteries. She laces up her favorite pair of shitstompers, as Daisy used to call them. After a second’s hesitation, she also grabs the book from off her nightstand, even though she doesn’t remember anything about the plot anymore. The world’s bloody ended; she might as well read. 

She flicks the light off when she leaves the apartment. Doesn’t look back.

She doesn’t find the person who was screaming outside her window, but that’s all right.

Plenty more where they came from. 

Ages ago--after she was sectioned, but before she’d ever heard of the Magnus Institute--Basira’d stayed up late with Daisy at the precinct. They’d been working on some case or other, and were waiting to hear back about a warrant--they still cared about those, then, or Basira had--and everything was sort of hazy with sleep deprivation and the promise of adrenaline to come. Basira had kicked Daisy’s leg lightly and said “All right. Zombie apocalypse comes. What’s your first move?”

“Well, I’d get out my bondage gear straight off,” Daisy drawled. “Go full Charlize Theron.” 

“Fair enough,” Basira said, and sort of left her shoe pressed up against Daisy’s calf. They weren’t anything yet, except partners, which was the only thing that mattered at the time. They’d fucked a few times, but it wasn’t a regular thing, and they’d definitely never talked about it, much less played footsie, but--it was late, and Basira was tired, and Daisy wasn’t shoving her off, so. “All right. So there you are, dressed in leather, carrying a riding crop--”

“Flail,” Daisy corrected her, and she was obviously joking, but Basira still felt her ears heat up a little.

“--right, flail,” she said, not breathless at all. “What d’you do next?” 

“Take to the water,” Daisy said immediately.

Basira raised her eyebrows. “Seriously? Not somewhere more defensible, or with spare resources like a--tower block, or a supermarket or something?” 

Daisy made a dismissive sound. “Go high and you can defend yourself, but you can also get trapped. Defending a supermarket sounds smart until you realize that you’ll run out of resources and until then you’re a sitting duck for other desperate civilians looking for the same. Nah, get yourself on the water.” Her hand fell down to Basira’s socked ankle and casually squeezed it.

“Mobility’s good,” Basira said, looking around to make sure they were still alone in the office. Almost everyone else had gone home ages ago.

“Exactly,” Daisy said, and stroked her thumb up to the top of Basira’s sock, baring a thin line of skin. “You can escape from anything chasing you. You can leave London if you need to. Use the boat to get close to likely targets, stage your own raids into supermarkets and hospitals and what have you, then be gone before the zombies can kill too many of your crew to make a difference.”

“DCI Tonner,” Basira said, completely focused on Daisy’s thumb on her ankle--the ridiculousness of it, but also the closeness. “Are you telling me that if the zombie apocalypse came, you’d give up law enforcement and become the Dread Pirate Daisy?”

“Nerd,” Daisy said, which was pretty hypocritical of her, given everything. She kept looking at Basira levelly, and took her hand off Basira’s foot. “The supply closet on the fourth floor has a lock.”

Basira bit her lip. She used to be a goddamn professional. She used to have standards. A hand on her socked foot didn’t use to do it for her.

Daisy grinned at her, then got up.

After a minute Basira followed her, and in the supply closet Daisy shoved her up against the wall and drove perfectly crooked fingers up into her and Basira muffled the sounds she wanted to make with her forearm and then Daisy bit down viciously hard on her nipple and Basira came so hard that she drew blood biting down on her own wrist, trying not to scream. Afterward Daisy laughed at her, the perfect teeth marks in her skin, and Basira grumbled and pretended like her legs weren’t still jelly, and then Basira said something like “Would you let me onboard your post-apocalyptic pirate ship?” and Daisy said “Only if you promise to call me Captain Tonner,” and then kissed her.

It’s funny, the things you remember.

*

A month later, and Basira doesn’t have one boat--she has five. A fleet, Georgie suggests, but against all odds Georgie’s a romantic, Basira’s discovered. Three Metropolitan police boats, because they’re quick, agile, well-stocked, and recognizable. One repurposed sailboat, which formerly belonged to some rich person and is now captained by an ex literature student who did a course on sailing as part of her research into Napoleonic literature--and good thing, too, because it doesn’t require fucking fuel. And then an even bigger stolen yacht, because they start acquiring civilians almost immediately.

It works almost as well as Daisy thought would. They try to keep the bulkier boats more isolated, but not so isolated that they run the risk of slipping into a fog and never coming back, and they try to send the police boats in on either raids or extremely tense business trips for supplies, but not so often their crews come back yellow-eyed and slavering. Basira puts up cameras in all the interiors to appease the Eye and it gets easier. There isn’t any escape from the entities now, but you can still pick your poison, mostly, and Basira knows how to handle the Eye. Sometimes she thinks the sky is looking at her fondly. Other times dark televisions and cracked phone screens will flicker on to look at her with Magnus’s eyes, and sometimes they call her Detective. But Beholding seems content to observe her efforts, and anyone who can’t handle being Watched finds their way to another power, one way or another. 

In dark moments Basira wonders if they aren’t being allowed to continue just because they’ve created several-hundred paranoid and constantly observed victims in a concentrated area.

“It’s better than being dead,” Melanie says flatly. 

“Maybe,” Basira says, mostly to be contrary.

“It’s better than being dead,” Georgie says, an arm around Melanie’s waist. They’re often touching, these days, maybe out of affection, maybe because asking a newly blind woman to navigate her way around a boat would have been hellish even under the best of circumstances. “But it’s still awful.” Her jaw is set with a familiar tightness: Martin Blackwood had that look, when he was determined to save the world. When it still seemed possible.

“Best we can do for now,” Basira says, because that’s inarguable.

No one ever asked Basira to be the leader, any more than she decided to be in charge. In a small enough group, in a dire enough circumstance--these things just work themselves out.

*

She found Georgie and Melanie in the first week. The phones are down, but radio’s still going. They’ve been broadcasting, as much information and advice as anyone had these days. (If you start to feel alone, focus on the people you love. Don’t stay anywhere that’s been corrupted, even if it seems safer. Don’t open the yellow door. Here’s how Karolina Górka escaped the Buried. Here’s how Andrea Nunis escaped the Lonely. Here’s how Melanie escaped the Eye. Here’s how Georgie escaped the End. ) She finds other people used to know in the Met, she tries sending a letter to her parents in Oxford, she brings Diana from the library onboard sometime in the third week.

She doesn’t find Daisy.

Daisy doesn’t find her.

Melanie asks, of course, and Basira says that she has no idea where Daisy is, or if Daisy’s even alive.

“I mean, you’d probably know,” Melanie says, uncomfortably. “If something had happened to her, I mean. Don’t you think that’s the--kind of thing--” she gestures vaguely at the sky, “--that bastard would make sure you knew about?”

“Maybe,” Basira says. She’s not sure that Elias--Magnus--thinks about her at all, no matter what the phones whisper to her.

“I think he would,” Melanie says, and squeezes her shoulder. She’s more tactile than she used to be--for obvious reasons, Basira guesses. “And if she’s alive, I think you’ll see her again.”

Basira doesn’t explain the circumstances of Daisy’s departure, or the last promise she’d extracted from Basira. If she sees Daisy again, it won’t be Daisy she’s seeing. And isn’t that a fucking irony. 

What she does tell Melanie about, after a particularly horrible day--seems like the South Bank’s been pretty well overrun by the Slaughter, which she’s determined to root out, even if she has to do it with Corruption--is the first part. The stuff Melanie was actually there for, that it doesn’t hurt as much to admit.

When Daisy came out of the coffin, she wasn’t someone Basira recognized. Or--she recognized all the pieces, but not the way they fit together. Daisy loved the Archers, which used to be a silly indulgence she guarded fiercely, a little softness she grudgingly let Basira and no one else glimpse, because Basira was special. Now Daisy loved the Archers, which meant sometimes she and Jon Sims sat on the floor of his office, with Daisy’s phone playing old episodes between them, their backs to the wall, their drawn hollow-eyed faces making siblings of them even though they looked nothing alike. Daisy was reckless, which used to mean that she made decisions like the snap of a rubber band, confident she’d be able to see both of them through. Now Daisy was reckless, which meant she hurled herself off the cot in the middle of the night because she’d heard something Basira couldn’t, and then Basira found her hunched over and trembling with a fucking butter knife in her hand, muttering don’t listen to herself over and over again.

Daisy loved her, which used to mean Daisy lied to her. Tried to protect her from things she didn’t think Basira could handle, like--what exactly happened to Silas Godfrey, who they’d connected four separate instances of melted human remains to, or how Angela Mears lost her hand, or Daisy’s own feelings. The night before the Unknowing, Basira had tried to talk to her. She wasn’t going to say anything soppy and awful, just--if this is it, it’s been an honor. That’s all. Daisy wouldn’t let her get it out. She bit the words out of Basira’s mouth, kissed her incoherent, and didn’t let her say anything at all. 

Now Daisy kept trying to tell Basira she loved her--not in so many words, but with a soft tenderness in the way she said Basira’s name, with a shaky hand pressed to Basira’s cheek, with the way she pressed her face to Basira’s stomach when she came back from Ny-Alesund and fell asleep with her head in Basira’s lap, nothing sexual about it. And Daisy--was still lying to her, it turned out. Letting Basira believe she was different than Jon, that she really could go cold-turkey from the Hunt without any ill effects. Still trying to protect her. 

Familiar pieces in different configurations. Basira spent months with her heart in her throat, trying to reckon with her sheer gratitude on the one hand and her stupid, unreasonable sense of betrayal on the other. She had Daisy back, and that was what mattered, except that she had Daisy back and she only barely recognized her, she had to protect Daisy now, keep it together for Daisy, and Basira was already stretched so thin, fraying at the seams. The end of the world puts all that in perspective.

How often do the people you love come back from the dead?

Practically never.

How stupid was she, to waste that chance? 

“You could try having some compassion for yourself,” Melanie says, tiredly bumping Basira’s shoulder with hers.

“Pass,” Basira says, and scrubs briskly at her face.

“I’m serious,” Melanie says. “The whole world’s trying to kill you. You’ve got to keep your head above water.” 

“I know,” Basira says, and draws in a long, level breath. “I’m not gonna fall apart on you, don’t worry.”

“That’s not what I’m saying,” Melanie says, but the raiding party comes back then, so Basira has an excuse to leave the conversation.

*

The thing about the end of the world is--people step up. Ordinary people. Basira’s worked traffic control, she knows how absolutely idiotic and frustrating ordinary people can be, but--in a crisis, a real crisis, people are as kind as they know how to be. People with useful specialized knowledge come out of nowhere. Unusual alliances emerge. So she’s not exactly shocked to wake up in the middle of the night to discover a familiar yellow door has appeared in the wall of  her cabin.

“Helen?” she asks, cautiously sitting up, reaching for the radio she keeps by the bed, and then for a knife, just in case. “What do you want?”

She stands, crosses to the door, and touches the handle--but then it moves of its own accord, and she has to step sharply back to stop the door from swinging open into her face.

“What,” she begins, and then stops, because Martin Blackwood is standing in front of her, looking tear stricken and frantic, holding a crying baby.

“What the hell ,” Basira says, as Martin stumbles forward into the cabin, the door swinging shut behind him.

“Thank god,” he says, and shoves the baby into her arms. “Can you take her?”

No ,” Basira says, but she’s got an armful of crying baby anyway. “What!” But Martin’s already turning back to the door, pounding on it when it won’t open.

“Helen,” he shouts, but the door stays shut. “Helen, take me back!”

“No, sorry, explain right now what’s going on,” Basira demands over the very close sounds of infant wailing, and when Martin turns to look at her the door disappears.

“Shit,” he says, and sways on his feet.

“Jesus,” she says, and goes to catch him with her free arm.

The others have heard the noise, though, so in a second there are other people there to take the baby out of Basira’s face and help Martin sit down and get him a glass of water and things. 

The story Basira eventually gets from him goes something like this: he and Jon were traveling together, trying to make it from Scotland back down to London, because Jon had some kind of dream about Oliver Banks that made him think it would be...helpful? Martin is murky but vehement on this point, and Basira resolves to ask for clarification later, with fewer people around. It was slow going made even slower by their accidental acquisition of the baby, who they rescued from some kind of monstrous man-eating sheep? Apparently her parents were already dead by the time they passed through, and they’d yet to find anyone more qualified to leave her with.

“We knew something had been following us for a while,” he says, gulping down the energy bar Georgie’d brought from her cabin, “We’d made it as far as Oxford before it caught up with us--it was the Not-Sasha. It um--I guess it doesn’t give up, even in the face of, uh, actual Armageddon. It cornered us in a library, and--um, so Jon is--you know, Jon--Jon can make most things stop, these days, unless it’s, um, Beholding-aligned, but it didn’t work on it. He tried to, ah, to make it stop, and when that didn’t work, he just sort of--yelled at the wall, and then the door opened up, and I went through with her, a-and,” his eyes fill with tears here, as open and raw as he’d been when she first met him. “I thought he was right behind me.” 

“Fuck,” Melanie says into the silence that follows, and Martin chokes a little bit, scrubbing at his face.

“All right,” Basira says, closing her eyes briefly. “So--what? The Distortion decided to lie to you, or only do Jon half a favor? That’s what it is . Doesn’t mean he’s dead.”

“Yet,” Georgie says, and Martin flinches.

“I’ve got to go back,” he says dully.

“That’s not gonna work,” Basira says, shaking her head. “Unless you’ve got some way of making Helen listen to you.”

“I’ll find one,” he snaps.

“And then what? Just get yourself killed?” Georgie asks. “He wouldn’t want that.”

“I don’t care,” Martin says. “The bloody world’s ended. I’m not just leaving him.”

“You’re not gonna find him like that,” Basira says bluntly. “He’s in Oxford right now, and you’re in London. You try to make it back up to him, you could miss each other on the trip.”

“Plus,” Melanie adds, “He’s got extra spooky bullshit now? If he survives this, he’ll probably be able to make it here without you.”

“He’ll be looking for me,” Martin says stubbornly, and his eyes flicker, just for a second. “Looking. We won’t miss each other.”

Basira narrows her eyes. “Martin,” she says, keeping her voice low. “Jon’s dream. It’s important?”

Yeah, she didn’t mistake it. He glances up at the camera in the corner of the room, and then away. He looks at her, and doesn’t answer.

“Okay,” Basira says, drawing a deep breath in. “Good news, all. We’re a mobile unit. I hope Jon is keeping an eye out for us, because we’re headed to bloody Oxford.”

*

They don’t take the whole fleet up the river, because a) that’s not exactly subtle, and b) while Basira heavily suspects that Jon’s plan might in some way impact literally everyone, they can’t advertise that, so it doesn’t seem like most people’s problem. She puts it about instead that this is a rescue + reconnaissance mission, and knows she’ll be fielding more of these for other people’s loved ones in other cities, if they survive. She collects letters and names for people with loved ones in Oxford as it is, before they leave. In the end, it’s just Basira, Georgie, Melanie, Martin, and Dani the Napoleonic War expert who take the sailboat up the river. And the baby, obviously, who cries if Martin lets go of her for more than thirty seconds at a time.

(“Does she have a name?” she overhears Melanie ask him, when they’re packing up to leave.

“I mean, we don’t know her name,” Martin says uncertainly, “but I’m sure she’s got one. I don’t want to, um, erase her whole history, you know?” 

“But what have you been calling her all this time?”

“Baby?”

“Christ.”) 

Basira is unsettled by the baby. She’s never really been a baby person --she’s never hated them, but she’s also never really known what to do with them. She remembers vaguely expecting to be a mother someday when she was younger, but as soon as ‘someday’ became an actual possibility she stopped expecting it. It’s always just seemed like a thing meant for someone else. Correspondingly, she hasn’t spent much time around babies as an adult--there are some people on The Isabella with kids, but Basira hasn’t been expected to spend much time around them. But it’s different now--partially due to the smaller quarters, but mostly because she knows Martin and Melanie, and is beginning to know the others.

She ends up holding the baby once while Martin goes to the toilet, and the baby wails and wails in her arms, wriggling like a fish trying to escape.

“Sorry, baby,” Basira says, sympathetic and irritated at the same time. “He’s gonna be right back.”

The baby screams, full-throated. Basira wonders if babies are just like this, or if she has special powers, starting her life in this brand-new country of nightmares.

“You’re gonna have to pull yourself together,” Basira advises the baby, doing her best to jiggle her into some kind of calm, talking more to distract herself than to actually say anything. “You’re gonna have to swim, or you’re gonna sink. That’s a good thing to learn early. Don’t sink, kiddo. Don’t sink.” 

“She has help,” Martin says, and she flinches--she didn’t actually hear him come back. He takes the baby back from her. The crying tapers off almost immediately, but Martin’s not even looking at the kid, just at her, a worried furrow between his brows. “She doesn’t need to swim. She’s got help, until she learns how. And even then--I hope she’ll still have help, when she needs it.” He smiles faintly, although the worry line stays there. “I mean, we are on a boat.” 

“Right,” Basira says. “Yeah, I know. I was just--talking.”

“Are you,” he hesitates, patting the baby’s back. “Are you all right, Basira?”

“You’re kidding, right?” 

“No,” he says. “No, I mean--there’s only so long you can sustain a, a state of emergency before you burn out. Are you burning out?” 

“I am not burning out,” Basira says steadily, making deliberate eye contact. He looks away first--still Lonely around the edges, or was he always like this? “I am tired, but who isn’t?”

“Sure,” he says, still not looking at her.  

Before they’d ever heard of the Magnus Institute, Daisy used to wrap Basira up in her arms and make her feel small, even though Basira’s never been a small woman and Daisy was all whipcord muscle and sharp bones. Daisy kept things from her: like the words neither of them were ready to hear, like the truth of Daisy’s violence, like the horrors at the gate, the things she thought Basira was too fragile or good or righteous to know about. Basira resented it later. Told Daisy flat-out she didn’t need to be protected. They were partners, weren’t they? She’d yelled that at Daisy, that first night after Elias made her sign the contract. I just want you to trust me.

Daisy had snarled at her, then dropped to her knees, licked Basira open until she was crying from overstimulation, and then put on her cock and fucked her until she stopped and shuddered between Basira’s legs, blonde hair hanging down and her face bright red, heartbreakingly beautiful. “Just trust me,” Basira whispered to her, running her hands over Daisy’s hard shoulders, the muscle of her back, while Daisy panted against her collarbone. “I can take it. Whatever it is, I can take it.”

“I do trust you,” Daisy said after a while, but she didn’t say anything else. She pulled out, cleaned herself up, and then drew Basira back in her arms, completely encircling her, Basira’s head tucked under her chin. Basira felt small, and just--completely held, if nothing else. 

She misses Daisy. 

They’re anchored outside Sonning Eye when Basira feels it, a little prickle of awareness. She looks up at the sky, and as always--even in the dark--it looks back. The pupil is shrunken, focused, zeroing in on them. She looks to Martin for confirmation--he’s the only other person who’s Beholding-aligned on this boat--and finds him already looking over the side, wary. Basira directs Melanie and Dani to take the baby belowdecks, and then quietly unbuckles her gun, nodding as Georgie does the same. Martin doesn’t have one, but eases the hatchet he’s taken to carrying out of its holster, his face grim.

They wait for long moments, hearing nothing but the sound of the river and the distant sound of music from the town--Sonning Eye is overrun by the Stranger, although nothing’s given them trouble yet--and then, very faintly, she hears splashing.

“There’s something in the water,” Georgie whispers, and nods at the dark river. “I just saw eyes.” 

Basira crosses to Georgie’s side of the boat, flicking the safety off her gun. Sure enough, there are eyes in the water, reflective and inhuman, although the shapes of the things swimming look human enough.

The problem with the entities has always been that tactical thinking only gets you so far. The fact is that aside from an obsessive need to know things and a heightened sense of observation, Basira doesn’t have any superpowers. She’s got the usual number of bullets in her gun, but that shouldn’t be enough to let her fight off the Jared Hopworths and Nikola Orsinovs of the world. The facts just don’t line up. But the entities don’t run on fact: they run on feeling. Basira is the Detective; the Detective belongs to Beholding, and this is Beholding’s world. 

Basira is a frightening thing.

She stands up, eyes fixed on the things in the water. In a cold, carrying voice, she calls down to them: “ I see you . Turn back and I might spare you.”

There’s a sudden splash, and then one of the things calls up to her: “Basira?”

It is unmistakably Jon’s voice, exhausted and strained.

Martin is already at the safety ladder by the time Basira manages to lower her weapon, throwing it over the side with a glad cry.

“It might not be Jon,” Georgie cautions as the things swim closer, casting Basira a worried glance. “Could be some kind of--puppet--thing--with Jon’s voice.”

But the man that Martin pulls up over the side a few tense minutes later does appear to be Jon Sims, albeit so waterlogged he looks like a drowned rat. Martin immediately sweeps him up in an embrace, and Jon clings to him, closing his--ah. His glowing eyes, shining with the same eerie, moonish light as the sky. 

“Sasha?” Jon asks into Martin’s shoulder, and part of Basira’s brain clocks that Jon apparently didn’t feel any compunctions about naming the baby, but mostly she isn’t thinking that at all. Mostly she’s raising her gun again, because the second thing is climbing up the rope ladder, and she doesn’t know what it is.

It’s taller than most humans are, and leaner, its hands clawed and its back legs oddly bent, like a dog’s. Its eyes flash, inhuman, but not like Jon’s--these are reflecting the light from the cabin, like an animal’s. 

It’s Daisy. 

Basira’s mind goes utterly blank.

She doesn’t lower her weapon, and doesn’t really register that people are speaking to her until Jon gets in between her and Daisy, his eyes still glowing that ghostly blue, his expression urgent. “She isn’t dangerous, Basira,” he says, and that’s laughably untrue. Daisy was always dangerous. “She’s been protecting me,” he tells her, and she still doesn’t lower her gun. Jon is too short to really block her view of Daisy anyway: she can still see Daisy’s face, dark and unreadable. 

“Hi, Basira,” Daisy says softly, and Basira bites down so hard on the inside of her cheek she tastes blood.

“Jon,” she says when she can manage it. “Are you really you?”

“Ah,” Jon says. “I--think so? Yes?”

“That’s him,” Georgie says, sounding amused in spite of herself.

“Definitely,” Martin adds, because the bastard has always been possessive.

“Great,” Basira says. “Can you--can you all go downstairs for a minute?” She draws in a deep breath. “I need to speak with Daisy.” 

Jon hesitates, looking at the weapon in Basira’s hands.

“‘S all right, Jon,” Daisy tells him, and finally Jon lets Martin tug him away.

“Don’t--don’t do anything rash,” Jon says over his shoulder, worried.

The others go below, and then they’re alone.

Basira adjusts her grip on the gun, then spits out the mouthful of blood she’s been accumulating. “You’ve been travelling with Jon,” she says neutrally. 

Daisy nods, an achingly familiar motion. “Was up in Scotland when the big one hit anyway. Tracking the Not-Sasha--it really wanted to become the Archivist, you know. Thought I might as well make sure the bastard didn’t get himself killed.” 

“Right,” Basira says. “And you didn’t show yourself?”

A corner of Daisy’s mouth lifts. “Thought they might overreact.” 

Keep it together. Breathe in, breathe out. “So--what? You’re fine now? The Hunt doesn’t have you?”

“Oh, it has me,” Daisy says, and takes a step towards her. Her body is at once familiar and foreign, graceful and wrong. “But there are plenty of monsters for me to prey on, these days.”

“So,” Basira says, swallowing hard through her dry throat, “The thing is, I wasn’t very good to you. When you came back from the coffin.”

Daisy stops coming towards her. “I thought you were.” 

“I wasn’t,” Basira insists. She had been awful, she’d resented her, she’d wasted their time, she must have hurt her. Her eyes are burning. “You only asked me for one thing, Daisy.” 

“Ah,” Daisy says, and scratches a hand through her hair. “Right. I guess I can’t just say I’ve changed my mind?” 

“Have you?”

Daisy considers. “I remember not wanting to hurt people,” she says finally. “I know I felt that way. I don’t anymore.”

Basira draws in a shuddering breath, her fingers tightening on the gun.

“But it’s not like before,” Daisy continues. “Before, I--the only person I cared about was you. The rest of the world was evil, or unimportant. It was like--you and I were the only real people. And when I came back from the buried, I saw how wrong that was. Everyone else became real again. And now--” she pauses. “I don’t know if it’s the same. I can’t say that for sure. But I didn’t run down to London when the world ended, did I? I tried to help Jon.” 

“So--so you care about more than one person now,” Basira tries, and her heart is beating so fast she almost feels faint with it. “Is that enough reason for me to break my promise?”

“Dunno,” Daisy says, and shrugs, a painful little gesture. “I guess you get to decide that. But I think I could help.”

Basira stares at her, and the sky stares down at both of them, and in the distance there’s a gleeful shriek and the persistent sound of a calliope, and Basira--

--Basira loves her so much, and she is so tired

She starts sobbing even before she flicks the safety back on, and slides the gun back in its holster with shaking hands.

Daisy’s there as soon as she does, crossing the deck in two ridiculously long strides, and then her arms around Basira and Basira sobs into her chest, her hands fisting in Daisy’s shirt. Daisy croons nonsensical things into Basira’s hair and holds her tight, and Basira cries like she hasn’t since she was a child, cries like the infant in Martin’s arms down the stairs. Just absolutely comes apart.

“I’ve got you,” Daisy tells her again and again, and eventually she must guide Basira down to the floor, because when Basira comes back to herself she’s cradled in Daisy’s lap, her head tucked under Daisy’s chin.

“Damn it,” Basira says, and swipes at her face with her sleeve. “Sorry.”

“Don’t be stupid,” Daisy murmurs. “You’re human, it’s fine.”

God,” Basira says, and kisses Daisy’s throat, because it’s right there. Daisy makes a quiet sound that goes straight through to Basira’s ribcage. “It has been absolute shit, Daisy.”

“Yeah,” Daisy says softly. “I know.”

“A fucking nightmare,” Basira stresses.

“Yeah,” Daisy agrees, stroking a clawed hand over Basira’s shoulder. “Nice job with the boat, though. Looks pretty flash.” 

Basira chokes on a laugh. “You think that’s something,” she says, and twists in Daisy’s arms so she can take Daisy’s face in her hands, “I’ve got a whole fleet back in London.”

Daisy raises her eyebrows, but she doesn’t get to reply because Basira has just remembered she can kiss her, really, properly, with her hands around Daisy’s neck and her tongue curling into Daisy’s mouth. Daisy kisses her back, pulling her in close and making another of those very soft sounds. It feels exactly like Basira remembers: like safety, like danger, like coming home after a very long journey.

“Don’t leave again,” Basira whispers when they break apart to breathe. “Just--I don’t want to do that again. Please.” 

“I’ll try,” Daisy whispers back. “I promise I’ll try.” They both draw in a deep breath, and then Daisy brushes a thumb over Basira’s cheekbone and asks: “Are you feeling better?” 

The world is still over, and who knows what kind of plan Jon has, or how they’re meant to keep it from the sky and the cameras and the thing in Basira’s mind that calls her detective, but--they found Jon, and the baby’s still alive, and Georgie and Melanie haven't been claimed by anything, and Daisy came back.

“Yeah,” Basira answers, and kisses Daisy again, just because she can. “I’m all right.”