Woken by a sudden shifting of shadows. A vague awareness of a figure. A sound like a thousand soft gun shots. Dreamed heâ€™d gone down the hole behind the stationâ€™s curtain. Into the underground. Found the gray caps there. Sleeping on their sides. Heads down like resting silverfish. Heretic and the skery lying peaceful on a mattress made of curling ferns. Finch went to join them and immediately exploded into spores. Was everywhere and nowhere all at once.
Finch had a headache. Mouth felt thick. The sound: a thunderous rain. A woman knelt in the gloom beside his bed.
The sharp smell of grass and water on her skin. Wanted to fall into her. Hold her like he was holding onto Bliss as they fell into darkness. But couldnâ€™t decipher the look on her face. Somewhere between watchful and sad. Made him hold back.
â€œI couldâ€™ve been anyone,â€ she said. “I could’ve been.”
Teasing: â€œBut youâ€™re not anyone.â€
Sintra rose and dropped something onto the bed. He picked it up. The extra key to his apartment.
â€œKeep it.â€ Offered it back to her.
â€œNo,â€ she said.
Frowned, kept holding it out to her. â€œItâ€™s yours. Not mine.â€ Disturbed by her now. There are doors and there are doors.
â€œSomeone broke into your apartment,â€ she said. â€œI donâ€™t want you to think it was me. Keep the key. Maybe Iâ€™ll take it back later.â€
Finch turned on the lamp next to the bed. Could see her clearly. A white blouse that revealed the curve of her breasts. Black pants that ended in stylish boots she must have bought long ago. Over that, a deep green trench coat ending at the knee. And still that expression on her face. Almost grim. Almost frowning.
Lowered his arm. The key felt cold and small in his palm. Made him weak to think of her without it.
â€œAre you sure?â€ Couldnâ€™t risk more than that.
â€œYes,â€ she said. Folded her arms.
He got up. Reached out to touch her hair. She pulled back.
â€œI donâ€™t want to stay here,â€ she said. â€œI want to go out.â€ Not looking at him.
So this was how it would go down. What could he do but let her.
â€œOkay, so weâ€™ll go out, then.â€
â€œYou donâ€™t have to,â€ she said. As if suddenly undecided. Thought he understood. But he felt reckless. Theyâ€™d only gone out twice before.
â€œI want to.â€ And he did. Wanted to be out in the world. Even if that world was completely fucked up.
â€œI can go out by myself.â€
Touched her face with one finger, to brush aside a strand of hair. To feel the softness of her cheek. Brought her close. Kissed her on the forehead.
â€œLet me get some clothes on. Weâ€™ll go. Wherever you want to go.â€ No matter how far.
Wouldnâ€™t burden her with the details of his day. A whole world of torment he wanted to leave behind.
â€œWeâ€™ll go wherever you want to go,â€ he said again, from the bedroom as he dressed. Savagely. Like he didnâ€™t care. Putting it on her. Apartment wasnâ€™t safe anyway.
Came back out and made a show of sticking his Lewden in its holster. Put his arm around her, despite the pain in his shoulder. Opened the door. Feral shot out through the gap and was gone.
Made a show, too, of locking the door behind them with Sintraâ€™s key.
â€œYou look rested,â€ she said as they went down the stairs. â€œThatâ€™s good.â€
Didnâ€™t feel rested. Not anymore.
Finch, available for preorder.
While there’s still money.
While there’s still air.