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You've been counting stars, now you're counting on me
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Melissa said it was fine, and that was just crushing, because it wasn't. It wasn't fine, and Melissa knew it, and Jennifer knew it. If it had been fine, Jennifer wouldn't have been crying. If it had been fine, there would have been no need to reassure her. It wasn't fine, because Jennifer had allied herself with someone who was doing bad things. She'd been trying to hide from it. She'd been trying so hard to justify, to obfuscate the truth, but at the end of the day, four people had lost their lives to Nick Reid. At least two of those had been unnecessary, and those were the first two. She had no idea what the other circumstances had been. Probably not very different.

The worst of it all was that Melissa believed her. Melissa had faith in her, thought she could stop Nick from killing. But how could she, when she didn't know where he was? How could she, when she didn't even understand why he was doing what he was doing? It was stupid. She was scared, and he was a friend. He was someone who cared, someone decent, but he had a bad side. It was a bad side that had led to four deaths. Was it fair to just push that aside?

And Melissa wanted Nick to find them. She wanted to talk to him. She also wanted to talk to Peter and Rob. Rob? A killer's name, right? What sport did Rob play again? Basketball? And Peter, it had to be the Peter who had killed. Melissa had friends who had killed too. Maybe they all did. It had to be, by now. Friends who killed. Friends who died. All around them, a battle, a destruction of all they had been, and Jennifer and Melissa were sitting in a mirrored charnel house, trying to make toast on a camp stove.

And for the first time in days, Jennifer felt pretty fucking good about herself.

She tried to force it down, of course. It wasn't a good thing to be smug that she hadn't yet succumbed to the game. It especially wasn't good when she couldn't even say for sure that she'd made the right choices. After all, she'd let the winner of the Best Kill Award walk free a few days ago. Brennan had been crazed. He hadn't listened. She'd extended her hand to him, offered him the chance to reconsider, and he probably hadn't even heard her.

And who was she to dangle the promise of redemption? Perhaps she'd taken Nick's note to heart a little too much. She was no angel, though. No savior. No bringer of mercy. She was who she was, and right now she was sore and scared and tired and hungry. Right now she was just hoping to keep on living, day by day. She didn't know what she'd do at the end. If she was one of the finalists, she'd surely die, unless she could just wait on the sidelines and let them finish each other off. She didn't have it in her to kill.

She'd tried to come to terms with her inevitable death, but just couldn't make sense of it. She wasn't sure what came next, but she was in no hurry to find out.

Time to push these terrible musings away. Time to focus, to keep on, to stay alive as long as possible. To keep Melissa safe. To help the people who needed it.

Melissa was having trouble with the toast. She said she wished she'd been given some ramen. That got Jennifer smiling a bit again. The stove was also giving her other ideas.

"Um, yeah," she said. "We could, um, we could also maybe boil water from, um, from the creeks. That might help us, um, not get sick."

Of course, it was probably too late for that. Jennifer had gone through a couple bottles of creek water already. Likely, the only reason she hadn't contracted Giardia or tapeworms was that there was nothing in her for parasites to feed on. At the rate she was going, there wouldn't even be enough meat on her corpse to make her worth a scavenger's time.

That was a good train of thought to abandon.

"So, um, what have you been doing since, um, since we got here?" Jennifer asked.

Something to take her mind off death.

She'd probably picked the wrong question.
Juliette Sargent drawn by Mimi and Ryuki
Alton Gerow drawn by Mimi
Lavender Ripley drawn by Mimi
Phillip Olivares drawn by Ryuki
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