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Viewing Single Post From: V4 Epilogue: Peace Accords
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You've been counting stars, now you're counting on me
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July 31, 2008

It was late at night, midnight perhaps, almost a month after Kimberly had gotten back to the States. She'd snuck out. It wasn't so challenging. She'd been nothing but forthright about her plans and movements and actions for the last month. She'd gone to her checkups and her therapy and she'd told her grandparents every time she so much as went into the yard. She'd had tonight in the back of her head for a long time, had been figuring the best way to achieve what she wanted. There was a very specific reason she'd left this for last, after she'd taken care of everything else she'd felt the need to do. She'd reconsidered several times, had nearly wimped out, but that wouldn't have been fair or right, for herself or anyone else.

She'd taken a taxi, getting picked up a few blocks from her house and setting her drop off point half a mile from her destination. She wasn't dressed in a particularly memorable fashion tonight. It was warm enough for her to get away with a simple black t-shirt and a pair of blue jeans.

And so, she felt fairly confident in her relative anonymity as she wandered the streets, moving through a neighborhood of smaller houses. She knew which one she was looking for, had found the address in her student directory. Counting down the numbers, she tried to rein in her anxiety. This did not feel like a dangerous place.

The house itself did not look dangerous either. It was on the smaller end, with a garden in front, covered in flowers that looked like they had seen better care once upon a time. Kimberly paused for a moment, took a few deep breaths, and forced herself to calm down a little before moving up the path towards the door. It wouldn't do to be visibly nervous before she even started speaking. Not this time.

At the door, she stopped again for a moment. The house's inhabitant was probably sound asleep this late at night. It was her last chance to back out, to try again later, maybe call ahead and give some warning like she had with most of the other people she had talked to. But, no, if she left now, she was pretty sure she'd never come back, would never work herself up to this again. She was afraid, and fear didn't tend to abate if left alone. This already felt worse than she'd expected it to when she'd first gotten back.

Before the indecision could overtake her, she reached out and pressed the doorbell.

As a career Navy man, Lucas McCreery knew from firsthand experience that nothing good came from surprise late night visits. It was never good news when people were contacting you long after respectable citizens had turned in for the night. Maybe bad news arrived at night because people needed those quiet, dark hours to compose themselves before having to face the rest of the world in the morning.

In recent weeks, he had embraced the dark. No one bothered him at night. People didn't try to "help" him. There weren't well-meaning but intrusive conversations about how he was doing. He didn't have to answer idiotic questions about how he was feeling. At night, he could sit with a beer and not think about what he was going to do next. He could just sit and wait and hope that his request for a reassignment would come through. If the brass took pity on him, they would get him the hell out of this landlocked hellhole and let him go put down boots where he could do his job. Then he would be the bad news that visited people in the night.

With an irritated grunt, he answered his door. If it was another reporter, he planned on shoving his beer bottle in whatever orifice caught his attention. Who he saw stopped him cold.

He was unsure why this girl was darkening his door. Lucas took a drink to buy himself some time before speaking. "Well, you're the last person I ever expected to see," he admitted as he stared down at Kimberly. "What do you want?"

Kimberly saw the beer first. It was not a good sign. She didn't know exactly what she'd been expecting. Maybe she'd been ready to open the door and find Mr. McCreery still grieving, tears still fresh on his face. Instead, he looked surprised for just long enough to take a swig before he spoke.

Kimberly had been ready for anger, but she wasn't quite sure yet if that was what she was dealing with. She couldn't read Mr. McCreery at all. She knew a little bit about him, knew that he was career military, that Aislyn was his only kid, that he was a single parent. All that had been gleaned from an internet search and the student directory. She didn't really have an understanding of what his job was, though. She certainly didn't know if he'd killed people, or if he was the sort to carry a gun while off duty.

It didn't matter. Wasn't that what she'd told herself before coming here? She had a very simple goal in mind, and it was time to fulfill it.

Kimberly ran her tongue over the roof of her mouth, which suddenly felt pretty damn dry.

"I, uh, I came here to apologize," she said. The plan had been to be coherent, clear, forthright, but the words sounded almost mumbled to her. She wasn't feeling very sure at all.

Lucas raised an eyebrow at her words. She wanted to apologize? He shook his head and snorted. He probably knew better than most that apologies didn't fix a damn thing. Apologies didn't make up for missed time and lost opportunities. They didn't give you more time and they didn't give you any second chances. They sure as hell didn't make up for watching your only child bleed out into the ocean.

He clenched his jaw as the impulse to reach out and choke the life out of the girl crept up on him. But there wouldn't be a point in doing that. Like her half-assed apology, physically doing something to this kid wouldn't change anything or bring anyone back.

Instead, he squeezed the bottle as he took another sip of his beer. "Well, you said it. Feel better now?"

"Not really."

It was the truth. Kimberly wasn't feeling very good at all at the moment; in fact, she hadn't felt so small and bad about herself in weeks. She hadn't been expecting a gracious reception of her apology. She'd told herself she was here to do the right thing, to give Aislyn's family a chance at closure. Maybe that had been a lie. Maybe she'd expected something else, some measure of peace for herself. She'd have to deal with what she'd actually found, though.

In a way, it was almost nice. It was nice to not be handled like a victim, to not be treated with care and caution like she might fall apart at any time. Being met with this sort of reception, maybe it was exactly what she needed. Maybe blame from someone else, something she could rebel against a little, was a step towards forgiving herself. It certainly felt strangely honest. This was different from the forgiveness and kindness she had been met with everywhere else. It was different from being told she really was a good person deep down inside.

That was not what this trip was about. Now was not the time for self-indulgence.

"I fucked up," she said. "I fucked up and I think I maybe destroyed your life. That's... that's not okay."

At least this girl cut to the chase. Lucas had been afraid that she would be one of those girls, the ones who cried at the drop of a hat because they knew that their tears influenced people, forced others to concede things to them in order to shut them up. While he would never like this girl, there was at least something admirable in her honesty.

He tipped his bottle towards her in acknowledgment.

"You have most definitely fucked up my world. In ways that neither one of us can fully comprehend at the moment."

Lucas studied her expression for a moment, gauging how far he could go with her before continuing. "And since we're being honest, l can assure you that I probably know things about you that you haven't figured out yet. And I know because I've killed people, too."

Shaking his head, he let out a bitter chuckle as he leaned against the door's frame. "More people than I probably want to sit down and count. Like you, I've watched the light leave people's eyes as they've died by my hand. But we're different because I can sleep at night after what I've done. I don't ask anyone to forgive me. The people I kill deserve it. Sometimes I...."

Another sip of cool beer soothed his nerves while he searched for the right word. "I... regret that they forced me into that situation, but I'm never sorry I did it."

It was something to consider. In some ways, Kimberly suspected that she understood Mr. McCreery more than he thought. After all, what had happened with Kris, it had hurt, but not in the same way Aislyn had. Kris had been a menace, and she'd shown that she wouldn't stop, and from there it had just been a matter of working up the nerve to swallow her feelings and finally bring the violence to an end. She'd never apologized for what had happened on the mountain.

The difference was, what had happened with Aislyn, that had been entirely Kimberly's fault. Whatever had prompted Aislyn's attack, whatever had led to Kimberly having to defend herself, it had all been because she'd started the aggressions. She'd misread the situation, and the person who'd least deserved it had gotten hurt. There was no way to fix it, no way to undo it, no words to offer here to make things right. Part of her wanted to leave, to call it a good enough effort, but that wouldn't be right. She still had a few things to take care of.

Best to cut to the chase. Again, her voice betrayed her, left her sounding a little scared as she spoke, rather than cold and ready to face anything.

"Do I deserve it?"

It was the lingering fear, the thing she'd had a little inkling might have been hanging over her head ever since her return. Aislyn's father had killed people, like he'd just said. He had lost everything. She knew what had happened to Rizzolo, and was willing to bet it had been someone related to one of his victims. She didn't have quite so much to worry about in that respect, didn't have so much as a third of Rizzolo's victim count to her name, but she had no idea just how deep Mr. McCreery's hatred of her ran. Better to know now. Better to risk everything than to live with that fear.

Ah, so that's what this visit was about. The girl wanted to know if she needed to be worried about him. Lucas slowly stood up straight, a humorless grin creeping across his face.

"Oh, little girl, it's not that easy. This doesn't get to be over that quick. That concern you have, that need to know if you should watch over your shoulder?"

Leaning forward, he invaded her personal space. "That's the price of the game. The worry that one day, when you least expect it, I'll be there. Or maybe one of my friends."

The temptation to just reach out and snap her neck was terrible. But it would be over so quickly, and where would that leave him? He reminded himself that it was better this way, that the girl could never forget who she was and what she had done. Guilt and fear would be her constant companions.

"One day, I will even the scales. You owe me so much, and I will take it from you. But not today. You don't have anything of worth right now."

Lucas McCreery took a measured step back into his house, his eyes never leaving Kimberly's. "One day, I will take everything from you and shatter your world. And just like you've done for me, I'll make sure you have a front-row seat for the carnage. You have my word."

There really was nothing more to say. Lucas closed the door and locked it before draining the rest of the beer. Three more of its friends were in the 'fridge, and it would be hours before he would be able to doze off to some infomericals. He smiled as he wondered how well that girl slept at night.

"Fair enough," she said to the closed door.

It was not what Kimberly had wanted. It was, if anything, the exact opposite. She'd come here hoping to let the weight be lifted from her shoulders in some fashion, to just get everything off her chest and get everything finished. She'd had this strange thought that, just maybe, Mr. McCreery might kill her. She'd thought herself ready to face that, had thought that she'd done everything she'd wanted to do with herself, everything that had really been imperative in her life. She'd been pretty sure he wouldn't act violently, but she hadn't known for certain, and had figured that maybe if she survived the night she'd get to live unafraid.

Tough shit.

It was almost funny. Kimberly would have done exactly the same thing, at one point in her life. She knew there was a decent enough chance Mr. McCreery even meant it. It was hard to think about that, about what it meant for her. There were a lot of people she cared about. There was a lot she still felt like doing with her life. How far was she willing to push? How much was she willing to risk? Just how wrong could things go for her and those she loved?

More than scared, the encounter made Kimberly angry. She tried to force it down, to use her understanding to dim her resentment. It wasn't working so well.

Fuck this. She'd tried, had given an honest effort. Aislyn's father deserved better than he'd gotten, and Kimberly knew she hadn't been the epitome of tact and sensitivity during their brief exchange, but it didn't make her any less livid at someone trying to hurt her. The urge was mounting to scream something at the house, to kick the door, to raise a scene.

She didn't.

Mr. McCreery had given her a lot to think about, but Kimberly wasn't about to spend the rest of her life cowering in terror. Time would tell if he'd make good on his threats. There wasn't much else she could do about it until then. That stung, but it didn't bother her quite as much as it once might have.

"Catch you later, then," she mumbled, before turning and stalking back into the city. It was a long walk home, but she'd be there before her family awoke to notice that she was missing.
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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