Jennifer’s voice echoed down the empty concrete halls, startling enough for Deacon to have unholstered his gun by the time she stuck her head into his room.
“Put that away,” she said.
Deacon glared—if such a soft expression could be called something that harsh—at her and set the gun aside. He’d been halfway to the door at her call, and he turned to walk back toward the bed in the back corner as she stepped into his space like she owned it.
“Did you want something?” he asked. “You’re interrupting my nightly routine.”
“Oooh, your nightly routine?” Jennifer scoffed and then sighed. “Does it include cucumber water and a nice warm bath, maybe some chocolates and soft jazz? No? Because that’s what I’m missing being stuck here, with this.” She rapt on her forehead, feeling useless as her fingers drew only the same images over and over. Remembrances more than visions.
“Chocolates? No. Can’t say it does. Sounds nice though.” He turned around to face her. “Any particular reason why you’re yelling my name through the base?” He looked tired; felt tired. Sick of being the one who wasn’t while everyone else had some important role to fulfill.
“It is nice. The chocolates that is.” Jennifer’s eyes darted around and she crossed her arms over her middle.
His room here didn’t have much in it. Mostly weapons; a small pile of clothes. He wasn’t one for sentiment, not when the apocalypse was at hand. She spun around slowly, taking in the blank walls. Hers were so cluttered, all by her own hand. Black on white, white on concrete. Nothing bright, sunny, yellow.
The thought brought the image in mind of the color: broken crayons, her tracksuit in the mental house, the color of paint thickly layered on canvas on the bank of the Seine…
“Whoa!” Her hands went to block her face when she turned fully around again. “What are you doing?”
“My nightly routine,” Deacon repeated, folding his shirt and putting it on the chair. “You’re the one who barged into my space. You get what you get.”
Jennifer separated her fingers, glimpsing in the dull yellow light the many scars littering his skin. Tilting her head to the side, she dropped her hands. “That is…that is more scars than most people have.”
He glanced down. “Probably.”
“How are you alive?” She moved close enough to grab one of his wrists. He didn’t pull away as she lifted his arm, turning his hand over, inspecting.
“I ask myself that every day.” A pause. “But mostly I’m thinking I’m just really bad at dying.”
She laughed and snorted a little at that. “Well, clearly.” She let go of his hand and circled around him. Not like a lion, but like a curious dog perhaps. Slowly, but with excitement and intrigue. “Patterns…no, not patterns. Lines tying together the good and bad and—“
“The ugly?” he offered as she ran her fingertips over the newest raised scars along his chest, hastily sewn up in a dark cell on Titan by unkind hands. Her hands were the opposite; soft and light, gentle.
Jennifer tilted her head back, hands splayed out over his stomach. “No. They tell a story. Like constellations, like…the new and old meeting. Like time.”
“Don’t you see it?”
“Nope. I see a lot of pain.”
His dull, cold tone made her frown and stay where she was as he sat down on the edge of his neatly made bed to untie his boots. She bit her lower lip before she climbed up next to him, running her fingertips over his back like a connect-the-dots game but she couldn’t figure out the full picture.
“There’s something here,” she said softly. There were the straight slices of knives, the puckered circles of bullet shots, and not nearly enough unmarred skin. Jennifer had scars too; but not like this. Accidents, and not accidents, small mostly, and a lot of her scars she thought were up in her head more than anywhere else.
“Yeah? You finally find my purpose in the timeline with your Primary vision?”
His words weren’t mocking, like Jones’ and Ramse’s sometimes were. Used to be; still were. The timeline was all jumbled up in her head. She rubbed her temple and let her hand settle on the back of his neck as he straightened up, shoes set neatly together at the end of the bed frame.
She squeezed her eyes shut for a moment, picturing yellow, and then opened them. “You. It’s you. All you!” She scrambled to her feet, fisting the hem of her sweater in her hands. “It’s like I can read your story.”
Deacon arched an eyebrow. “Now that…is probably not a good idea. It’s full of a lot of shit you’d be better off not knowing.”
“It’s like the Word of the Witness, right? All the interconnecting lines, writing everything out. But instead of the whole world it’s just…you.” Jennifer tilted her head and reached out.
Her fingertips brushed the side of his face, over the thin scar. Over where there used to not be one. She’d done this before, or she would. In her future and his past.
He let her fingers linger there. Let her search his face for whatever it was she was looking for; hoping she would find it.
“I can see it now,” she said matter-of-factly, sitting back down, her hand lingering. “Not like me. No. No one can read my whole story. It’s all up here—“ she tapped her temple, “and not even I can figure that out. It’s all spaghetti streets and broken compasses. Broken…” She frowned deeply before she took his face in both of her hands, shifting on the mattress. “You’re lucky, Deacon.”
“Yeah?” He was a survivor. He wasn’t sure if he’d call it lucky, but he’d take it.
“You know who you are. Anyone can know who you are if they look at you.” She sighed and leaned forward, close to touching her forehead to his. “You’re like your own road atlas. No one would get lost. But me? I don’t know.”
Shaking her head, she got to her knees and threw her arms around his shoulders, hugging him awkwardly. He frowned a little now that she couldn’t see his face, and wrapped an arm around her back.
“You know what?”
“No. I bet you’re gonna tell me, though.”
She laughed again, close to his ear, her breath warming his skin. “You’re in my story. No matter what the Word of the Witness says. You’re there. Here.” She squeezed him with what little strength she had and then sat back, pressing a hand to his chest and her own, over their hearts. “Okay?”
He didn’t know if he would ever figure her out. But there was a tug right there under her hand that had been growing ever since he’d first met her; when he killed her and met her again. So his expression was confusion and tenderness and a whole bunch of shit he’d convinced himself that he’d killed and tortured out of himself in the past twenty-five years.
“Yeah,” he nodded. “Okay.”
Jennifer smiled then, big and wide, her eyes twinkling. “That’s great! That’s good right? You belong! You always have.” She jumped to her feet, put her hands on his shoulders and kissed his cheek. “You’re right where you need to be. But I’m not where I need to be.” She stepped back. “I need…” She closed her eyes, imagining again. “Sunflowers, lemons, purpose…” Her eyes snapped open and he was sitting there, watching her. “Goodnight, Deacon.”
“Night,” he said to her retreating back as she muttered her way out of his room, pulling the door closed behind her.
Deacon sat there for a little longer, trying to make sense of all of that. Like everything with Jennifer, it felt like every moment with her meant nothing and everything at the same time. He held onto the feeling of her light touch all over his skin and her earnestness, insisting that there was a place for him. He was sure there wasn’t, but she tried, in her own way, to change his mind.
He wasn’t sure it was enough.