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You've been counting stars, now you're counting on me
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Aileen said she wasn't giving the notebook back. Even before she told Aaron to read the words, he knew what had happened. He knew what was wrong, and he knew how he'd probably end up having to handle it. It was a real pity for this to come up in this way. It was bad timing, and it wasn't what he wanted, but he'd been prepared for a long time.

"Damn," he said. "Hoped you wouldn't see that."

The key was consistency of vocal tone. He had to come across as unfazed. He had to buy a bit of space, too, so he took a couple steps backwards.

"Alright, Aileen," he said. "I'm going to give it to you straight, because you're my ally.

"Milo was a psychopath. I heard him talking while he was on watch one night, saying how he'd get us all, how he couldn't wait to stop having to act like a moron. He said we'd drop our guards, and then he'd deal with us.

"I lied about things, to spare your feelings, and, more importantly, Charlie's. Sometimes you have to lie to help people. I taught you that back at school, remember?"—lunch, water bottles, silly things, same principal—"She was fragile, Aileen. She could have lost it at any moment, gotten herself hurt. Hell, she did in the end. This whole time, all I've been doing is looking out for the group. Sometimes that meant dealing with problems, like Milo and Tom. But it's worked. You're safe, with, what, thirty people left? And we're closer than ever to a breakthrough."

And the whole time Aaron was talking, he wasn't meaning a word he said, and he was sure Aileen knew it. The unspoken dialogue was a lot more simple. He was giving her an out, magnanimously throwing her a rope and offering to rescue her from the pit she had dug for herself. It was so very easy. All she had to do was go along with the lies, and this would end find. Aaron would ditch her or get rid of her somewhere along the line, but it wouldn't be immediate. They'd both sleep with one eye open, but that was only sensible at this stage anyways. Things could continue as normal.

But Aaron didn't think she'd take that route. That was why he made sure his hand was hovering near his pistol. He didn't want this to get ugly, but eventual unpleasantness had been a forgone conclusion for a long, long time. Better to get it out of the way when he still held the upper hand.
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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