New 25-IV

Listen, Honestly, I’ll Live.

I stopped just outside the parking garage, leaning against the wall and panting heavily. The walk over had been exhausting and painful, limping slowly with hands clutched around my ribs. The few people I'd passed on the way had averted their eyes, or even crossed to the other side of the road. Honestly, I was so covered in dust that they probably couldn't tell I was costumed, but I’m black, so. I was telling myself that stopping was just to recover before heading inside, but truth be told, I was scared of what I'd find in there.

Images bubbled up before I could stop them. The spray of blood as Lis collapsed, Talie impaled through the chest, my dad, in the instant before he slammed the door closed, fire roiling behind him-

I squashed them with a growl, no longer panting entirely from exhaustion. No wallowing, Flint. You're gonna go in there, and face up to whatever happened like a-

“Man, you really did it, didn't you?” My head snapped up, to find Void standing there. Her helmet was off, and her cape was wrapped around her midsection like a bandage, blood seeping through in a few places.  “That's a barely-victorious Flint pose if I've ever seen one.”

I leant back slowly against the wall, covering my eyes with one hand. “Great. I'm going crazy now. I knew it'd happen sooner or later, but I hoped I'd have a little more-”

A hand fell on my shoulder, and I froze. Slowly, I uncovered my eyes to find her standing in front of me, a tired smile on her face. “You're not crazy, Flint,” she said, voice full of good humor. “It's me.”

I slapped her hand away, shoving her back. “No,” I growled. “Void is dead. You're dead!”

She raised an eyebrow. “Flint. On the rooftop, before the first meeting, you told me not to condescend you, and I said you looked like you escaped from the Karate Kid reboot.”

I froze. “...Talie?” I asked, voice wavering.

She gave a thumbs up. “Got it in one… sort of.”

“I saw you die,” I said flatly. “A corpse with a great big hole in its chest.”

She laughed, looking a little confused. “Well, obviously not. Are you sure?”

“I didn't imagine it,” I snapped, without much conviction. Had I really… no, I was sure I’d seen it. I hadn’t been addled at all. But here she was, standing in front of me. “I didn’t.”

“Look, I don’t know what to tell you, Flint. He hit me pretty bad, knocked me down.” She gestured at the makeshift cape-bandage. “I’d take this thing off and show you, but I’m pretty sure it’s the only thing keeping me in one piece right now.”

“Yeah,” I muttered, “I know that feeling.” I made a decision. “I’m still sure of what I saw. But… that’s not the most important thing right now. I… I’m glad you’re okay, Talie.”

“Likewise.” She limped over and leant against the wall next to me. “As is everyone else, mostly. Lis’s knee is torn up pretty bad, and Jess was bleeding pretty badly for a bit there, but everyone’s stable and alive.”

It was like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I sagged into the wall. “Thank god,” I said quietly.

“Let’s be real, though, he could’ve killed all of us. Did you figure out why?”

“Honestly, I ended the whole thing more confused about him than I started out. Guess it’ll just be one of those things we never know.”

She shrugged. “Eh. I’m not too shaken up.”

“Yeah, me neither. Fuck that guy, and fuck his cryptic bullshit.”

I raised my stump, and Talie bumped it gently.

“You are gonna have to explain that, though," she said, glancing down at it.

"Trust me; you should see the other guy."

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