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A Delicate Machine
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Honestly? Cass hadn't expected Trav to resist. They'd vaguely thought that he would have come to his senses once Cass had rejected his initial offer. That he would have taken another good look at the situation, remembered what he had to lose, realized that there was really no worthwhile reason for him to stick around. Cass had been thoroughly convinced that was what should have happened, but they now realized that they'd been doing Trav an extreme disservice.

Just judging from the short time they'd known each other? Of fucking course Trav wouldn't just cut and run like that. Even if they still didn't fully accept it, who was Cass to try and forcibly convince Trav that he was wrong to care about them? If they had really, truly wanted to live out the rest of their life alone, without causing anyone else trouble; Cass would have turned around as soon as they had seen Trav on the roof for the first time.

Maybe, just maybe, it really was okay for Cass to feel happy, just for a while. It wasn't an easy concept, hell, even now they still wanted to apologize for forcing things to come to this, for existing; but they shushed those doubtful inner voices, for now. Cass had lived with them long enough that they knew everything they had to say, could probably sing and dance along with the Greek chorus from memory if they tried hard enough.

"I, uh..." Cass started, trying to verbalize just a fraction of what they were thinking. Gratitude, shame, maybe even a little serenity that'd gotten lost and found its way to Cass's brain. They settled for a simple "Thank you," which was a pitiful speck of what they really, truly meant; but was at the same time the whole of it at once, really.

Cass hadn't been entirely lying when they said they didn't want to leave the roof. It had lost most of its fairy-tale magic, even now that Jae and Vanessa were gone, but it was still the only shred of familiarity they had to cling to. Cass hadn't even looked at their map yet, so the rest of the island remained a shadowy haze in their imagination, besides the bits of it they could see from their perch on high. They would have preferred a berth in the bell tower; higher and even more artistic, but that would require too much travelling through unknown territory for Cass's tastes.

So instead, they remained on the roof, passing the time with idle chatter. Trav didn't seem to mind. Eventually, it started getting dark enough to get rid of any question of leaving, and they decided to sleep in shifts. Not that there was much either of them, even Trav, could really do against someone with a weapon and a mind to use it, but at least it meant they wouldn't die in their sleep; a fate that terrified Cass more than anything else.

They had a lot of time to think during their first watch, idly laying on their back and staring out at the stars, hearing Trav's soft breaths close by. Time to think about a lot of topics they'd been avoiding, before. The shock had lost its grasp on them, over the course of the entire day, but it had been replaced with a quiet, numb mortal dread. Cass didn't deserve to live more than anyone else did, but they didn't deserve to die either, goddammit.

Cass had never been much for religion, but they'd never been able to actively reject it, either. They didn't believe in anything specific, but they did believe in a vague something, some mysterious force that'd preserve their consciousnesses and souls after death, just because the alternative was too terrifying to even consider. They guessed they'd be finding out the truth behind it all a lot sooner than they'd hoped.

They thought of their family and friends back home, too. There it was again, their instinctual self-loathing clashing with what they knew to be true. Cass didn't often feel like they mattered, but they knew how much they meant to their parents. They didn't often feel like anyone cared, but they knew that Marco and Christine would miss them. How would they react to their death? How would they recover? Cass couldn't find the heart to speculate, but they knew they owed it to them to say something, at least.

It wasn't hard to find a camera, much to Cass's begrudging gratitude. "Uh. Hey?" They started off tentatively and quietly, trying not to speak loud enough to wake Trav. "You're... probably watching this, aren't you Marco? Maybe you dragged Chris into it too, I dunno." Marco could never leave well enough alone, and Cass had had to endure lots of well-meaning prodding whenever he felt like they were acting "weird", or otherwise down. Even though they usually brushed him off, tried to awkwardly change the subject, Cass really did appreciate it, especially now.

"First off, I know Mom and Dad would never watch this. I mean, judging by how many times I've had to help them out with their facebooks and shit, they probably wouldn't be able to find a video even if they tried? Well, like... god, I know this is a lot to ask, sorry, but you guys have always told me that I need to try and be a bit more selfish, yeah? So, could you please... pass this on to them? Even just the important bits?" Cass said, sitting cross-legged directly in front of the camera. They kept their eyes closed as much as they could, tried to pretend that their friends were right there in front of them. Tried to tune out the thousands of strangers listening to their most intimate thoughts.

"All I wanna say is... thank you. Right here, on camera, so it never goes away, okay? I'm gonna be dea- no, fuck, not going there, sorry. Okay. Okay. Just, I need you guys to know, and know forever, so there's never any doubt in your minds, okay? I love you, so much, and the proof's gonna live on, right here, forever. I'm sure as hell not gonna be changing my mind. So... thank you. For everything. For caring. For being my friends for all these years. Life would have sucked a whole lot more if I didn't have you guys, just saying. Mom, Dad, god, where do I even begin? I mean, those words kinda capture it all, don't they? At least ideally? "Mom." "Dad." You were always there for me. You always tried to understand, at least. Nothing I say can ever live up to what you deserve, but... thank you."

"I've only got one real request for you, but it's important, alright? Please. Whatever else happens, just... don't you fucking dare let anybody call me Cassandra, alright?" Cass said, spitting the name out like poison, sudden fire in their eyes. "I'm not a girl. Make sure they get it right." They sat there and fumed for a moment, letting those words echo out into the night.

From there, they spent the next few hours engaged in aimless chatter, recounting fond memories they'd shared with everyone over the years, small things they'd always wanted to say but had never found the courage to, tiny things like a cool dog they had seen last week. They didn't want to let go.

Eventually, though, Cass struggled to keep their head up and their eyes open. They knew that if they pushed it any longer, they ran a very real risk of putting Trav in danger, so soon after he'd decided that they were worth something. They couldn't let that happen. They turned to the camera one last time, sad smile on their face. "It's about time for me to sleep. This... this is goodbye, alright? Nothing good is gonna happen from here on out, and I don't want any of you to get hurt by it. So... I love you. Good night." They repeated that phrase several times before finally tearing themselves away to wake Trav up for his watch.

They hoped their sleep would be dreamless and deep.
a tribute for the dead and dying

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Five Finger Death Punch · The Rooftop