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Burn On; Open
Topic Started: Jun 15 2011, 12:39 AM (6,061 Views)
MurderWeasel
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[ *  *  *  *  *  *  * ]
((Kimberly Nguyen continued from Dead Girls))

Kimberly was playing the grave robber again, up on the mountain in the midday heat, poking through the scene of carnage she had encountered. Dead people, here and everywhere, but that was no surprise now. What was a surprise was the results. She'd expected things to have been thoroughly looted. A girl lay off the path a bit, clearly the victim of a collar detonation. A boy lay on the ground, stabbed to death. There'd been a battle here, someone really fucking serious about ending this guy's life. That someone had been wounded, too. A blood trail led over the edge of the mountain, down the slope.

That would have been a good sign, but someone, presumably someone else, had taken all the food out of the bags strewn around. That was fine. Kimberly wasn't all that hungry anymore. Whatever was fucked up in her guts was probably past the point of no return. She'd finished off her rations a couple days ago, and wasn't feeling all that much now. The real issue was the suggestion that the weapons had been taken. Kris had some serious firepower behind her, and Kimberly had a little combat knife.

But for all that, the vultures had left three glass bottles unattended.

Molotov cocktails. Kimberly knew what they were from the fumes, from the books she had read and the protest songs she had sung but never understood. Molotovs. Real anarchist shit. She could run with this.

Kimberly had lost and left a lot of things in her time on this island, but she still had her box of pretty blue-tipped matches.

So she scooped up one of the bottles, and she stuffed it into her backpack, and she took up another, and she shoved it into the hand warmer of the sweat-and-blood-and-dirt-stained hoodie she still wore, with its missing left sleeve and its rips and tears. The sweater was still comfortable enough. She needed it to keep warm at night, and she couldn't exactly take it off and put it on over and over, not with her left arm fucked up. It was enough of a nightmare dealing with her jeans when nature called.

Oh, Kris, the little indignities I have to repay you for. The little ways you destroyed my life. Could you even begin to imagine?

The third bottle, she left for the next person. They'd probably need it more than she did, and she had enough shit to carry. She looked at the bodies for a second, and found she actually could identify the boy. Nick. Nick Reid, and some girl she didn't know. Nick was smiling. Kimberly smiled back at him.

Die with a smile. Seemed someone knew what it was all about. A little beacon of hope for her, then. A positive role model.

And she kept going, kept moving uphill. She was going to the summit. There was no practical reason; in fact, all common sense told her it was an awful idea. Her arm was still messed up. Yeah, she could move it a little bit by now, could wiggle her fingers and bend her elbow just the tiniest of bits without all that much pain—or had she just gotten used to the pain?—but that meant little if she had to catch herself. She moved carefully, though, except when the caution became too much to bear and she ran for a few seconds.

However it was, she didn't trip, and eventually she found herself at the top. She'd been on this mountain before, back when she'd tried to mess with that girl, back before she'd met Liz Polanski. She'd never been to the top, though. Now, here, she could see that there wasn't much. A bench. A view.

It was all worth it.

So she sat on the bench, her backpack pressing awkwardly into the wood, a slight slosh coming from the improvised firebombs she carried. She sat, and she watched. She had a little time. Kris had kept this long. She'd still be fresh in a couple hours.
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It'd been a couple hours, and while Kris might still be fresh wherever she was, Kimberly was starting to feel a bit like she'd been rolled in grease. It was fucking baking, and her head was itching. Her nose was probably sunburned. Just what she needed. She reached her hand to her ear, found the flowers she had picked. They were wilted, wrinkled, dead. Whatever. She tossed them to the ground, looked at them just lying there.

It was hot. She didn't want to come down with heatstroke or inconvenient shit like that, so she took a nice long drink from one of her bottles of water. It was actually something of a process, given that her arm was still fucked up. She couldn't help but take another look at the Molotov in her backpack, since it was right next to the water. It was really, really tempting to just take the thing out, get it started, and set the whole damn mountain on fire. There were lots of dead pine needles accumulated. Fuck, she could burn a lot from here. Maybe flush Kris out, if the girl was hiding. Maybe the fire'd reach all the way to Brook and his shrine of horrors.

Maybe it'd be a really awful idea to burn everything in sight on a whim. No, no maybes about it. She knew it was stupid. Knew it was nothing more than another destructive impulse.

That wasn't what held her back.

No more killing. No more Aislyns. She didn't want to burn some pathetic fuck to death in their sleep. She didn't want to hear her name on the next announcement next to a laundry list of imbeciles who got caught in the blaze. Sure, she might change her mind later, might want to cause some more serious damage, but for now, she was content to repack her bag, adjust herself, and continue sitting. The afternoon was wearing on. Maybe when night fell, she'd prowl again. Maybe she'd finally accomplish her mission.
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Kimberly heard the panting, but she didn't bother to turn. It was clearly not Kris. Whoever it was, they'd been running, and none too quietly. Being chased? No way to say. A couple days ago, she might've fucked with this person, might've seen if she could screw with their head. Now, the idea bored her almost as much as everything else. It was pointless. It was petty. She had better shit to do. She had someone to find before she died. She had business to finish.

But, hey, that didn't mean she had to entirely give this new person the cold shoulder, right? Better to say something, to make sure they weren't aiming a pistol at the back of her head amidst those gasps. Better to help them realize that things could get pretty fucking ugly if they decided they wanted to mess with her. She wasn't too worried about who they were, but she certainly didn't want to be killed by some nobody. She had a score to settle. Nothing was getting in the way of that.

"Hey," she called. She didn't turn. Most people hated it when she talked to them without looking at them.

"I don't know who you are. I'm Kimberly. Not playing and all that shit. If you want to make trouble, I just want you to know that I'll blow us both to pieces."

She'd retrieved a match during her little speech, which she now struck on the bench. It made a good sound. Pretty, in its own way. More beautiful than anything she'd heard in days. Maybe her mysterious guest would appreciate it as much as she did. Probably not. Pity.

"Otherwise, wanna sit down? There's a bench, and you sound beat."
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"You can say that again."

Erik Laurin. Decent enough guy. He'd kept his head low, stayed out of the fight. Certainly there were no Aislyns hanging over him. She could remember him from back at school, remember him and his date at Prom, before she'd bailed. Man, what was his name? Brandon? Fuck. Didn't matter. He was probably dead. Most people were. That, or killing. That'd probably be worse.

She yawned, stretched one-armed, worked the kinks out of her back. She'd been still for a while. A long while, felt like. It was actually good to have someone else. It served as a little reminder that she was still real, still alive, still there. It had almost been possible to believe that the game had ended, that they'd all killed each other and the winner had left and somehow throughout it all they'd just forgotten to tell her. It wouldn't be so bad, living on this island all alone. She was pretty sure she wasn't going to keel over from her wound anytime soon. It would be an acceptable life.

But no. She knew that she would give up her hunt for Kris in a heartbeat if there was a chance to return home, to go back to her old life, but she wouldn't do the same to live on in isolation and boredom. She'd missed the boats, anyways, missed her chance to find glory or freedom. That was for others, for those who'd been lucky. Luck. it all came down to luck. Being in the right place at the right time. Surviving when the odds were against it. Just managing to keep existing.

Kimberly had been pretty damn lucky so far. Yeah, she'd had a tough run those first few days, with Kris and Jeremy and all that shit, but it'd toughened her up. Yeah, sure, she'd had another bad run, losing Sarah and Bridget—and, now that she thought about it, Jeremy too—but she was still alive when the vast majority of her classmates were corpses lying in the sun. More than that, she'd actually accomplished a lot. She'd done what nobody else had: found Liz Polanski and forced her to think. She'd gotten Dutchy out of Brook's web, given him a little bit of a nicer death. More than that, everyone who had crossed her, who had hurt or offended her, was supposedly dead.

All but one.

Oh, Kris. Where are you now? Do you remember me?

She waved the match in the air, snuffing the flame. A thin wisp of smoke curled away from it. She'd never understood that, how the smoke didn't come until the fire had been extinguished. Back in the real world, she'd have gone to the internet to find out. Now, she just had to accept the mystery. It was almost better this way.

"How's life been treating you?" she asked Erik. "Oh, and you haven't seen Kris, have you? Blond girl? Probably covered in blood?"
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Kimberly actually managed a laugh, a nice long one, for once not at anyone else's pain or the absurdity of this whole situation, but at Erik's comments. Fuck, she'd missed people. Especially, she'd missed having people on a somewhat even footing with her. Everyone she'd met had either thought she was worthless and tried to push her around or baby her or had been worthless themselves, useless and helpless and scared and demanding of her attention. Well, okay, no, that wasn't quite true. There'd been Aislyn. Aislyn would've maybe been a good companion, someone to share the days with while waiting to die. Kimberly had just fucked that up beyond all belief.

As her laughter shrank to chuckles and then silence, she considered. She hadn't told anyone what was going on, not that she could remember. Not beyond the group that had saved her life, and they were all gone now. Erik asking felt a little intrusive, but what the fuck, right? He'd seen Kris. He'd been scared of her, run from her. Good enough. It meant they had some common ground, a bonding experience.

"Yeah," she said. "Bitch shot me... ah, fuck, a week and a bit ago? Maybe a half hour after I woke up? She'd killed Ishida by then, and she came over and we tried to talk and she shot me."

She yawned. Considered lighting something on fire. No, she'd need her matches. Everything else, all the other shit she'd lugged around, it was all gone, but these matches were different. She'd need them until Kris Hartmann had paid. Then maybe she'd toss the pack into the sea, but not a second before.

"I was pretty damn lucky," she said. "Some people helped me. Stitched me up. I haven't died of infection yet, so hopefully it'll be alright."

She really hoped she would be fine. That would be a horrible way to go. Wasting away—that was for other people. Not her. Never her. When her time came, it would come with a roar. She wasn't about to settle for anything less. She'd made it this far, had lived through more guns being pointed at her than she could count, had wriggled off the hooks of numberless killers and psychopaths. She figured at this point she could pretty much die however she wanted.

"Don't think I have much of a chance overall with an arm down, though," she said. "I just figure I'll find Kris, make her day a little worse."

A little? You wish, Kris. I owe you for ten days of bullshit. I owe you for treating me like garbage, like just another number on your little kill counter. You're going to regret not finishing me off.

You're going to regret it for a long, long time.
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"I think I can manage that," Kimberly said. Her mental arithmetic was running full blast, trying to figure just what the hell she owed Kris now. Fuck. It wasn't so easy to figure. The whole potential encounter was nebulous in her mind, layers upon waves of fantasy. It wouldn't be easy, she knew that. It'd be a struggle, a biting bloody battle. Kris wanted to live. Nothing else made sense. Kimberly had a few advantages there. She didn't much give a fuck what happened to her after that fight. Well, okay, not entirely true. She really wanted to survive longer than Kris, just out of spite, unless there was some grand opportunity to fuck with the girl even more by dying.

But Erik didn't need to know any of that. He probably didn't give a shit. They all had their own problems.

"And yeah," she said. "It sucked pretty fucking bad. But, hey, anyone left has had a bad time, you know? I figure I'm no worse off than anyone. Except maybe the ones who got away."

She wanted a cigarette. Small annoyances. Instead, she adjusted her position, bringing her right knee to her chest, toying with the laces of her boot. She sighed, glanced up at the sky.

She couldn't help wondering what was going on back in Saint Paul. All the people she'd known probably thought she was nuts. She could practically hear the cries of vindication from her exes. She focused on that. Better to drown out anything her family might be thinking or feeling. She did miss them. Fuck, all this and she'd have dropped it all, would have given everything up just to sit down at her kitchen table, reeking of vodka and smoke, and eat a couple cookies. Pointless shit like that. Not that it'd matter much, not in the long run. You lived with what life threw at you, until one day you didn't.
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Erik offered to help work on her arm. Sweet of him. Something she'd take him up on, too. She'd kept it as clean as she could, changed her bandages until she ran out, made sure to keep the dirt away. Sarah's stitches had held pretty well, too. Maybe they should come out here at some point. Fuck if she knew. It wasn't like she'd ever complete the healing process. It was nothing but a delaying tactic.

Erik seemed all embarrassed, though, shaken and such. Maybe it was his movements. They'd made her start a little, but a good number of things did these days. He kept talking, though, trying to move things along, to cover up. Kimberly let him ramble, let him dig his little pit. It wasn't even malice at this point, just force of habit. She liked Erik. He didn't deserve to flounder in embarrassment forever. Maybe that was why she spoke. Maybe she just needed to share. She couldn't tell. Didn't care.

"It's okay. Been a few days for me, too. Last time someone died in my lap." Too much information, probably, but, hey, she wasn't here to be nice. He'd tough it out. She wouldn't force him into responding, though.

"Brook got him. He's crazy. Built a shrine or some shit. Lots of crazy people here. I met Liz Polanski, you know. She was crazy too, but maybe in the right way."

She rubbed her head. Fucking sunburn. She even had sunscreen, back in her real bag, the one from home. It was still lying on the beach, probably, unless someone had stolen it. Since the beaches were now permanent danger zones, it'd be staying there. She was pretty sure she'd left her notebook in it, now that she thought about it. She'd been working on some poems, real angsty shit about her family and the world. Pointless now.

"But I'd appreciate it if you looked at my arm."

She turned, presenting him with a better angle. She was glad Bridget had cut the sleeve from her sweater. It made things so much easier. Not that she wouldn't have traded all that convenience for the opportunity to give the other girl a good smack. So many unpaid debts. So many bad people here. It was almost too much sometimes.
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Hand sanitizer? She still had that. She hadn't really had any use for it. Her bag was pretty fucking empty, just a mostly-depleted kit filled with band aids and all the petty shit she'd never had cause to really use, antacids and burn creams and all that nonsense. Even though what she'd taken from Daisuke had been pretty complete back then, it was mostly gone. Still, she gestured to the pack with her good arm.

"I think there might be a little left."

She sat quietly for a few seconds, just thinking, bouncing everything around in her head. The crazy comment really got to her, really fired her imagination in a way nothing had in quite a while. On some level, she felt a little bit of what Erik was talking about. It was so hard to know if she was crazy. Probably. Fuck, probably crazy was the only way to live this long. She'd been crazy from the very start, though. Crazy to think her class was above this shit. Crazy to think they'd be able to work together.

And, man, if she was fucked up, how must it be for all those people who'd slipped through Danya's fingers? Talk about crazy. She hoped they were marinating in their guilt even now. Most of 'em, at least. A few weren't all that bad. A few really decent people had made it away. She hoped they got back home. Some, though... Bridget had ended up with a kill. Kimberly hoped it had been nasty, whatever it was. Hoped it stung deep. Hoped it burned for the rest of her life.

"I'm probably crazy," Kimberly said. "You can say it if you want. I don't mind. I mean, hell, going after Kris is pretty fucked up, right?"

She giggled a bit. Decided not to mention the whole thing with Aislyn. That whole time at the docks, that'd been pretty fucking crazy too, hadn't it? It had all gone so poorly, and then everyone had died, and the whole way things went down had been her fault. She felt a bit bad for poor Steven. He'd probably ignored her advice completely. Probably made one wrong move, cozied up to someone the wrong way, gotten his brains blown out for it. Too bad. Then again, only one person was leaving here. Well, one more person, at least. The odds made this whole thing rather comical. Everyone so busy trying to live, no one sitting back and remembering what the fuck they were even fighting for. What good was life if it all sucked?

"I mean, fuck, it's not even protecting other people. She just hurt me, and now I'm pissed, and I wanna hurt her too, you know? Pretty crazy."
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It did sting. It stung pretty fucking bad, but that wasn't new. It'd been like that every time Kimberly had worked on her wound. She'd cope. She didn't even punch Erik. Anywhere else, she'd have considered taking him up on his offer, jest or no, but here she had to be tough. She had to grit her teeth and not show that this bothered her. Tough it out. Power through it. A little pain was nothing, right? You had to look strong here. Never show your fear or discomfort.

"I think I have a shirt in the bag," she said. She'd had one, back at the beach, and didn't recall doing anything with it. She'd taken it back then, thinking—man, who the fuck knew what she'd been thinking? She sure couldn't change into it. Maybe she'd still been assuming her arm would magically get better or something. She couldn't recapture a good deal of her past thoughts. All she had left were the feelings, the rage and fear and incomprehension. The thought that she was going to die on that beach had never quite faded from her mind. She'd screamed and she'd cried and she'd never gotten over it. Maybe that was what this was all about. Maybe that's what was at stake with Kris.

Maybe that was stupid and pointless. She'd die anyways. Sometime, somehow. It was inevitable, the only fucking certainty in life. She wasn't scared. Not anymore. Never of dying itself, maybe. That was how she chose to remember it, at least. It wasn't dying. It was the hows and whys. To die for something stupid, that would hurt a lot. That would be a waste of a life. Everything in her existence had built to right now, to sitting on this bench. Maybe some of her classmates would've found that depressing, but to her it was pretty fucking inspirational. It meant everything she did was the most important thing in her life, meant she should give each action her all, and it didn't fucking matter if she failed and died, as long as it was something worth failing and dying for.

"And, hey, at least shirtless blond men probably draw attention. I can trip Kris while she's ogling you."

She smiled in return. Something to do. Something to be. Something beyond revenge, just for a little. The embers of identity rekindled. A crack in purpose. A nice change. Being herself again.

She'd missed it.
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Erik had bandaged her up pretty well, and for that Kimberly was thankful. It was strange, letting someone touch her injured arm. She hadn't willingly done that since parting with the group. It was also strange to think that she was the last one left. Who'd have fucking guessed that the girl they all thought was gonna die would end up the last one around? It didn't make sense. Only thing she had going for her was sheer determination.

Then again, that's all this game was, wasn't it? Plenty of innocents had been gunned down, yeah, but it was rare for that to happen without any extenuating circumstances. How many people just walked up and popped someone? Not many. No, they stopped, they stopped and they tortured and they talked, and the only reason they got any kills at all was because they were lucky or their targets gave up. She'd seen it. She'd seen Brook and Dutchy. Had it been her in Dutchy's shoes, no rescue would have been required. The trick was to scream and claw and bite to the bitter end. Make them pay for everything, like she should've done with Jeremy. Fuck this peaceful acceptance Zen bullshit so many of her classmates seemed to have going on. That just meant they'd been thoroughly whipped by the system. It meant the last shred of hope had been wrung out of them.

"Thanks," she said. It was strange, this conversation. Medical shit aside, they could be back in Saint Paul, maybe having a slightly awkward chat about school enemies over lunch. Man, that Kris bitch, she nabbed my Prom date, so I'm gonna make sure to spill punch on her dress. That sort of stuff. Kimberly had never really been dialed into the pulse of the majority of the student body, except insofar as she had to be to rebel against whatever garbage passed for popular at the moment. She'd sat down the block from the school, smoking with all the other people with dyed blond locks and striped clothing. She kind of hated most of her old friends now. They hadn't had a clue what they were talking about.

Everything in her old life felt fake. Funny, that. She'd been so sure she was the only one who understood authenticity.

"So," she said, mostly because she was enjoying hearing another voice after days of silence, "what activities have you got planned for the rest of this little vacation?"

She didn't want to stick with Erik, of course. Well, not if he was searching for someone or planning something that would take her away from her hunt. He was nice, but not worth losing her purpose for. But, if he was drifting aimlessly, well, maybe they could drift aimlessly together for a little while, just as a convenience. He'd just have to know to get the fuck out of the way if they did catch up with Kris. But it'd be better than to hear that she'd killed him over the announcements. It was sheer pragmatism, that was all.

Fuck all that self deception.

Kimberly didn't lie to herself. She wanted to stay with Erik. She wanted to travel with him, maybe enjoy the rest of her life. The only issue, the only reason she didn't come out and say it, was that she wanted Kris more.
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Brendan Wallace. The name meant absolutely nothing to Kimberly, just one of many that had passed her ears once or twice. She'd kept up with the killers a little, way back at the start, but had given that up later on, choosing instead to rely on instinct and split-second recollections. Only, that wasn't quite right. The name wasn't totally nothing; it triggered something specific in her, like maybe he'd killed someone she knew or something. Whatever. Fuck it. It didn't matter. He was, as Erik said, gone. They'd all lost people they'd wanted to have final words with. Friends, enemies, lovers—it didn't matter which. She could hardly even tell the difference, these days. Maybe in some cases there was none.

She considered chiming in, sharing her little tale about Sarah and Bridget. Really, though, it wasn't something Erik needed to know. Why would he give a fuck that her secondary targets had slipped through her fingers? No, she was determined, but she wasn't crazed. She'd had her final words with her erstwhile allies. They were done. They were dead to her.

Maybe really dead. She was still pretty damn sure they'd slipped away, but she'd been wrong before. Erik didn't seem to view it like that, but she didn't care. No need to enlighten him. It wasn't as if her little conspiracy theory was actually good for anything. Odds were, both of them were fucked. She'd tell him if it ever looked like they weren't, maybe. Give him a reason to keep living. Until then, though, let him think whatever he wanted.

And then, he dropped the bombshell.

His smile was false this time, as he offered to be her bodyguard. Kimberly didn't even try to force a grin. Her face went pretty sour, probably. Oh man, that pissed her off. It'd been going so well, too, but now it was back to "Let's protect helpless Kimmy". Fuck that. Any other time, she'd have told Erik to fuck off on the spot. He was different, though. Something about him was keeping her more grounded than she'd been since this began. So she didn't tell him to fuck off. She opened her mouth and she did what she should've done ages ago, what she should've done with her first group.

She told it to him completely straight.

"Sorry, Erik. I'm not down for any bodyguard bullshit. I've kept myself alive this long, and I don't think that's gonna change here anytime soon. I'm pretty fucking sure I'm at least your equal in that respect."

She paused for a second. It was self indulgence and drama, no two ways about it, but maybe he'd be the sort to appreciate it.

"Thing is, though, I'm pretty sure you're my equal too. You're here, after all. And, fuck it, you're a pretty damn good guy compared to everyone else I've met. So, what say we say 'fuck bodyguards', and instead try something else?"

She held out her good hand.

"Partners?"
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They shook. It was the best Kimberly had felt in days. Maybe more. Fuck, when had she last had this sort of understanding with someone? Not Rhory, for all the twisted camaraderie they'd attained. Not Liz, for their mutedly respectful antagonism. Not any one of Sarah's cohort, with their quiet and caring condescension. Fuck, had it been back at school? She couldn't even remember all that well. It was hard to grasp anything but the highlights of her lost life. It was easy to recall the parties, the drama, but it was nigh impossible to remember what it was like to lie in her bed on a rainy Sunday afternoon and work on algebra homework.

Somehow, that was what she missed more.

But that wasn't important. The past was the past, and mourning it was a waste of the present. They were here to the death. It was that simple. She and Erik were a team now, partners, and that meant she had a new future to look to. It wasn't going to be happy. She was pretty sure of that already. She could imagine him dying in front of her, dying in her lap like Dutchy had.

Thing was, she could cope. She'd fucking deal. She'd done it before. She could do it again. Nothing could break her, not now. And, hey, if she died first, maybe he'd be there to hold her. Maybe she wouldn't have to die alone.

But dying alone wouldn't be so bad, in the end. Dying was dying. It was the only sure thing left. They'd all face it, players and pacifists, winners and losers.

She released her grasp on Erik's hand. No need to think of those things. No reason to get off topic. She had a partner, and she had a goal. That was all she needed, all she wanted. Let the future bring what it would. She'd take it.

So she stood. She was sunburned and stiff, and she was going to be ready to move, soon, unless Erik was tired. Having a partner meant listening to other people, not egging them on or berating them for their failings. It was going to be an interesting change of pace. She hoped she'd be up to it.

"Hey," she said. "Do you feel l—"

but she'd turned, and she'd seen a figure in the distance, and she couldn't be sure, not really, not entirely, but she was sure enough, and all of a sudden everything was wrong, and she wasn't feeling happy or satisfied or vindicated or excited but just a little sad and a little scared.

It wasn't supposed to happen like this.

But she could act. She could keep her fucking cool. After all these days, after all these near-death experiences, it was one of the few things she could say with certainty.

So she forced a tiny smile, and she said, almost whispered, "Well, well, well. What do we have here?"
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Kimberly waited. Kris was stumbling, staggering, looking beat to hell. This was, this was fucking wrong. This was a fucking disgrace, a complete and total violation of everything Kimberly knew. Kris wasn't weak. She wasn't wounded. She wasn't the sort to be beaten and broken after only a week and a half. Kris was the grinning demon. Kris was her Moriarty, her Darth Vader, her Walter O'Dim. She wasn't supposed to turn up like this, at the one moment Kimberly could be normal again. Certainly, she wasn't supposed to turn up like this, a wretched wreck.

It wasn't supposed to happen like this.

But it was. It was happening, and it worked, it worked well enough. It was enough, this failure to meet expectations, to fan Kimberly's fury once more. It was enough for Erik to step in front of her, reminding her why she was doing this, what everyone else thought of her capabilities now. It was enough to carry her a step forward. It was enough to clench her fist.

"Hey," she said under her breath. "This'll just take a couple minutes. I don't think you'll wanna help with this shit."

Not a rejection. Not exactly. Fuck, she liked Erik. She really did like him. That made this hard. She didn't want him to see. Everyone else, the world, her grandparents, Bridget and Sarah, they could all watch and Kimberly wouldn't give a damn. She was about to torture a girl, and the only person in the world she didn't want to watch her do it was right here.

Tough shit. She'd explain when she was done.

It was a simple plan, really. Fuck Kris up. The girl had staggered to a standing position. Kimberly would run to her, and she'd hit Kris in the face, and she'd knock her down, and she'd sit on Kris' chest, just like she had with Rhory, and she'd put her knife to Kris' throat and she'd say, "Kris, you're gonna fucking die, you know? Nothing you can do about it. But because I'm not a bitch like you, I'm going to let you say goodbye," and she'd let Kris say her tearful goodbyes and all that shit, and she'd drag her knife across the girl's throat, just enough to leave the slightest stinging cut, and she'd laugh, then, yes she would, and while Kris was wondering why she wasn't dead, Kimberly would slam the knife into her shoulder and she would twist, and once Kris had stopped screaming, why, then Kris would ask Kimberly to kill her, and Kimberly would say, "Kris, this was never about killing you. You hurt me. You made me live with some awful shit these past few days. You think I'd do anything less than return the favor?" and when it sunk in and Kris begged, Kimberly would drop the knife in front of her and she would say, "Fucking kill yourself, then, but if you want me to do it, find me in two days. When you come crawling over the ground, broken and bleeding, with that knife in your teeth and murder in your eyes, fuck, maybe then I'll deign to kill you."

Of course, she wouldn't. Not even then.

And it would be beautiful. It would all be so pretty, so poetic, the poetry she had never captured with her pen. It would be a show of exactly what Kris had done to her. Kris would be forced to bare herself to the world, to lie there, powerless and scared and alone, and then she would have to work damn hard to survive, and she would do it, she would try, Kimberly knew she would, because she had so far, and in the end, it wouldn't mean shit, because someone would kill Kris anyways.

So Kimberly stepped around Erik, and she flashed him a quick smile and said, "Be right back," and before he could do anything, she was running at Kris, not the clean run she'd wanted, but a stumbling, staggering jog, hampered by her stiff joints and her fatigue and the fact that she'd been sitting in the sun for hours.

It didn't matter. She wound back her fist, her one good fist, and, as she drew close to Kris, she prepared to launch the first real punch of her life.
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Kimberly's fist never connected. Instead, a knee caught her in the gut, just to the side of the Molotov stuffed into her hand warmer. It knocked the wind out of her, killing her momentum entirely.

Better.

Then the fist to the face. It sent her staggering away, her vision blurring for half a second. Her legs weren't cooperating yet. She stumbled around Kris, finally collapsing on the ground a few yards behind her.

Better.

It hurt. She hurt. This was serious. Kimberly hadn't been on the receiving end of anything of this sort since Aislyn, and even that had been less extreme. She struggled to breath, to speak, but her chest hurt and her face hurt and nothing was working quite right. She raised her hand to her face, wiped it. It came away with some red specks. Mouth or nose? Hard to say. Hard to care. Nothing felt broken, but, then again, aside from a generalized pain, nothing really felt at all. She couldn't see well. The world was a blur.

Her glasses were gone.

Better still.

This was more like it. This was what she'd wanted. This was Kris Hartmann, mass murderer, worthy adversary, personal nemesis.

Kris wasn't really staying standing that well, though. Dammit. All this, and she still couldn't fucking stand on her own two feet?

And who the hell was asking her to identify herself? Whoever it was, they were mighty interested in Kris, and didn't give a fuck about Kimberly—at least, that seemed to be the case from what she could discern of the blurs. Kimberly absolutely hated being ignored. That was good. She could pin that on Kris, too. Kris was stealing her show. Kris was to blame.

She couldn't quite believe it. It made her sick. Maybe it made her cry a bit, or maybe that was the pain and trauma near her eyes. She couldn't even be mad about that. She was just confused, her head spinning, her face and stomach aching, her breath now coming in gasps and sighs.

She just hoped Erik would keep his head down. He seemed to be. She couldn't see him. Didn't know what he was doing. Making his way around to her, maybe, or getting an angle on the other guy. Maybe looking for a way to get the drop on Kris. She didn't even know if he was armed. Some fucking partner she was being. She tried to give a little thumbs up with her good hand, in case he was watching. She couldn't quite tell if it worked.

Stay back, all of you. Just stay away. I can do this. I can.

I can still make her pay.
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From her place on the ground, with her blurred vision and tearing eyes, Kimberly could see perfectly for the first time in a long time. There was the discharge of a gun, the thump, the explosion that left her ears ringing, the screams of anguish or sadness. There were the blurs, there was the smoke, and there was Kris, and Kris was what she could see clearly, who she could see clearly. In that instant, she could understand. The chain of events was there in her mind, all too fresh. Boredom, anger, frustration—whatever had carried her to that dock with that knife to that boy's throat—and then it all went wrong. It all fell in on itself, collapsed into fear and pain.

Kris was no monster. She was no fiend. She was a scared girl, a scared girl with remarkably poor self control and decision-making skills, a scared girl perhaps somewhat deficient in empathy, but a scared girl nonetheless. That was all she'd ever been. Whatever happened with Reika, whatever had possessed her to come to that beach, that had been fear. When she'd pulled that trigger, when she'd sent Kimberly spinning to the ground, screaming and bleeding, that had been fear. She could see it. Someone approaches, tries to calm things down in the only way they know how, and it's just impossible to believe them. Oh yes, she could see it.

None of that meant a fucking thing.

There were screams again. There was death again. Kimberly was angry again. Now, though, now she knew more than ever that it wasn't justified. It was the same thing Jeremy had taught her in the forest, so long ago (and he still had her hat, didn't he? She hoped he had that fucking hat. Hoped he went home and looked at it and wondered for a good long time whether such a thing as a lucky hat existed): the strong could take what they wanted, and the weak had to live with it.

Kris wanted to live. Always had, probably. She was too stupid to go about it in a reasonable way, but she couldn't really be faulted for that. She wanted to live, and she was willing to do whatever she thought was necessary in order to survive. Reika, Roland, Kimberly, whoever had just died, all the others, they were nothing to her. Nothing, perhaps, except reminders of what she was losing to attain her goal.

Yes, Kimberly could begin to understand this.

And Erik was out there somewhere. Erik was out there, and Kris had who-knew-how-many shots left. Kimberly didn't want him to die. She didn't want anyone to die. She'd never truly planned to see death, never truly reconciled herself with the idea of killing, even after Aislyn.

This wasn't about her, though. This had absolutely nothing to do with her, with the fact that her anger had boiled away now, with the fact that she thought that maybe, just maybe, she might be able to walk over to Kris and say some silly nothing and they could sit down and talk and maybe make amends somehow. This had nothing to do with the fact that she'd just lost her stomach for torture entirely, at least, as far as Kris was concerned.

This was about someone in the background, grieving so loudly she could hear it as a whisper through the pain in her ears. This was about Erik, out there and in danger. This was about everyone Kris had killed, and everyone she still would kill. It was about lost friends and sisters and lovers, and it was a damn shame, and Kimberly knew there was nothing just or right or heroic about anything she'd done or anything she was going to do, but, just for once, she decided not to take the selfish route, not to do what she wanted, but to do something for everyone else.

Hey, Kris,

She stood, slowly, carefully, making sure not to tip over again. It was hard to hear. It would be hard for everyone to hear. Her hand slid away from her boot, holding the knife. Once fully upright, she took a couple deep breaths, looked at the blurs. Found the right one.

just thought you should know:

One step. Two steps. A flick of the wrist, and the knife was held underhand. She still had her manual dexterity. Good. A couple more steps, arm raising high. Moving, closer and closer. Behind Kris, now. Right behind her.

I forgive you.

She brought the knife down.
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