There were no more messages to relay. Everyone else eventually filtered into the hospital, and Alvaro had taken over for Susan so she could be there for Carmen. Sofia, Sasha, and Aida had clean-up duty covered.
So now… now she’d outlived her usefulness. She would’ve outsmoked Dovile’s supply, too, if Sasha hadn’t tag-teamed her in his wordless way.
Reality threatened to finally catch up if she didn’t keep herself busy, keep herself moving. After a couple laps around the inner perimeter of Bakersfield, she’d decided to go at the bag again.
Angela’s knuckles met sand. She tried to draw her fist back, but found it stuck.
For a long moment, she stood there, staring at her engulfed hand. Then, with a sharp jerk and spray of sweat, (crack) it popped free. In a great gush, sand spilled freely from the hole.
Shit. Too soon. (He was taken too soon.)
As if it were a train crash she were staring at, she watched the bag empty itself. (His eyes going dark and his rainbow crown flickering out.) When it finally stopped, she turned away, collapsing against the wall, tilting her head to the low ceiling.
Felt more like she’d been the thing the train crashed into.
She shouldn’t have shown Derrick the intel. She should’ve just let the Templars take care of their own. Shit, she shouldn’t have tried so hard to get that intel in the first place. Maybe just a little more time would’ve made a big difference.
All this could’ve been so easily avoided.
Even when she won, she lost.
Leanne. Denise. Mary-June. Dennis. Liz. Naomi. Amanda. Paige. Harry.
Ten names. Ten swords driven into her back. The symbol of defeat. Of failure.
Angela sank to the ground.
She knew she should cry. She wanted to cry. Her eyes burned. Her throat felt stuck. Her chest ached.
But mostly she was tired. So tired. She didn’t even want a smoke. She felt… scorched hollow.
She even failed to feel grief like a decent human being should.
How did a failure like her survive when such… such worthy people died?
The world would be better off if she’d just settled in right where she was right now and stayed there. Every other move she’d make would only invite more disaster. More death. Lose more loved ones. And she couldn’t stop it. She’d thrown everything she’d had at Derrick, and the most she’d managed was a scratch, a single, narrow line of blood.
“Angela Iris Swift,” she murmured to the nothing, “are you seriously thinking the ‘everybody I care about dies’ speech to yourself?”
Being underground had a way of making the silence seem to settle down, decisive and unmoving, as if it were made of the earth that waited above.
“Gods, get a fucking hold of yourself, you… fucking… tropesterbater! Carmen’s having a baby, for the gods’ sakes, and you’re alone, fucking hitting 90’s Image Comics on the Angst-O-Meter because you finally broke your goddamn punching bag. That’s got to be the first time ever that needed a trigger warning.”
The words echoed in her skull, poking hot holes in her.
“Sure, maybe you should’ve died, but you didn’t. Shit, your Red Shirt ass didn’t even get hurt. You’re part of what they have left. A weak link is still a link. It can still get stronger. So if you give up now, you might as well tell Jan she won.”
You must live, to break your sword in that damn woman’s chest.
She clenched her jaw. She’d break all ten of them.
“C’mon. Get up. Have a smoke. Have two smokes. Then get your ass over to the hospital. They want you to be there—fuck, they might even need you to be there, for some ungodly reason—so you damn well better not fail them there.”
Thanks for coming to my birthday, Angie. I know you’re really busy and all, but I miss you.
The fire started again.
She rose, Sparta-kicked her empty punching bag, listened to its oddly satisfying clang and clatter as it hit the ground, and grabbed her tin of tobacco and rolling paper on the way out.