He stared at the floor, feeling like a ten-year old child who was in trouble for breaking a window with a baseball. "I'm sorry," he said, the words all too familiar. "I'm sorry. I…I just wanted to figure it out. Everyone I know is an enigma. You especially. You wouldn't give up on me, you kept faith in me for reasons I don't know. And it seems like every choice I make I screw up. And now I don't know how to fix things. I'm caught half in your world of killers and the cover-ups and half in mine, where I don't know who I am."
She took her glasses off, setting them on the table beside her. Folding her hands in front of her, she shut her eyes. "I'm only human, after all."
"Salvie said you hated me." She leaned forward in her chair. He could see the single scar left on her face, the one from his nails at the hospital. It was there as a caveat to her, so that she would never fall in love again, because love was futile, and it only brought pain. But it was also a reminder for him, a reminder of how fragile a heart was, even if it was buried under lock and key like Sam's. He supposed he'd broken it, and now she couldn't fix it, couldn't glue the bits together, and it would always be misshapen, lopsided, never quite able to function properly. "I thought you just didn't like me because I was human, at first. And then I started to see the signs, the ones between you and her. And then I figured it was because of what I did. But you came for me at Gava, and I thought it couldn't be that. But then I understood why you came, because you felt guilty, not because of me. When she told me you hated me, I finally understood. You hated me, the person. The rest was just an excuse."
"But I know why you went to Vokah. You went because you felt guilty again. I suppose anything you do for me is motivated by guilt or the threat of death. And I think that's why anyone does anything for me. Because they're scared of me."
He twisted the blanket in his hands. She had put it on him; he hadn't fallen asleep with it. "Sam, I don't care if you think I'm scared of you or anything like that," he began. "Because I could have gone and seen him and not come back and you damn well know it. But I did. I came back. I came back because you've got to help me, Sam. I'm in over my head and I've got no way out and you've always helped me and I need you."
"You don't need me," she said, rather coldly.
"Look at me!" he shrieked. "I'm popping pills to counteract the other pills and my hands shake like crazy and I can't sleep unless I'm really high or jacked up on something and when I do I have horrid nightmares and I can't eat anymore because I throw it up and I feel sick all the time and I just want to sleep because I'm so tired but I can't." He paused for a second, seemingly out of breath, a tear falling down his cheek. "I can't, and I'm so, so tired. I'm tired and I just want to go to sleep but I'm so scared that I can't." He coughed, staring down at the couch, watching his tears hit the fabric.
"And I need you because when I'm here I feel safe. When I'm around you I don't feel scared. Let's face it- you and I both know that the world's ending. Everything's descending into chaos, and you're the very tip of the iceberg. And every time I go outside, I see the riots and the protests and the soldiers, and it all seems so horrible. But then I see your face on a poster or a TV or something, and I think, 'She'll keep me safe. She always will.'"
He wiped his face with his sleeve, trying not to look at her, trying to avoid the cold, dead eyes that stared back at him with unparalleled intensity, as she deduced his thoughts merely from the gestures he made, or the way he looked at her. "Stop doing that," he snapped. "I don't like it when you get inside my head."
"Then what were you doing, hm?" he fired back. "Trying to figure out what I was going to say? Going to do?"
She shook her head no. "I was just looking at your eyes." His heart sank and fell. "I've always liked your eyes. I've always thought they were pretty." She hung her head a bit, almost defeated, and he regretted lashing out at her. The irony of the situation struck him, an awkward time for it to do so, but somewhat apropos nonetheless. Here she was, one of the most powerful, and certainly influential, people in the world, and he had crushed her spirits with a few sentences. Malcolm's words came back to him. Who was he, in all honestly? What was so special about him that gave him the audacity to challenge this self-made master of machination?
"Stop crying," she whispered softly, trying to plaster a smile onto her façade. She reached over and wiped a few of the tears off of his face, brushing them away with her thumb. "I don't care whether you hate me or not," she began, "I just want you to be happy. If Salvie makes you happy, then I want you to be with her. If someone else does, then you should find them. But just, please, God, be happy. Because if both of us can't be happy, then one of us should be."
Words escaped him at the moment, so he feebly nodded his head, trying to hide his gauze-covered wrists. She shut the book with a soft thud, almost aged, and put it on the table to her left, next to the glasses. Standing up out of the chair, she started to leave. He couldn't let her go, however, until she knew he was going to try and fix things. "I'm sorry," he said.
"Hm?" she said, halfway to the door.
"For everything. I'm sorry."
"I know." The words were cold, lifeless, just as the woman who spoke them. And so, for a time, he let the comment drop and merely lay on the couch in the dark, the hum of the mechanics sounding like the regular heartbeat of the ship, a noise he had missed so much over the past few weeks. But something kept gnawing at him, kept stinging, kept whispering in his ear like some dark temptation. And so, an hour later, he got up off the couch and wandered in the kitchen, where he knew the light would be on, and where the woman would sit, hunched over a mug of coffee, like she did every night.
She was there, her shadow cast upon the floor near the door, and she barely looked up to meet him as he entered. "It's the middle of the night," she began. "Why are you still up?"
"I can't sleep. I told you. And you're one to talk." He grabbed himself a mug of the coffee, the pot still warm, and set it down at the table across from her before sitting in his chair. He was about to take off his jacket, but then the tape and gauze on his wrists felt like weights, like shackles, and for a moment he found himself unable to. A minute later, however, it was laying across the adjacent chair, and he no longer cared who saw the bandages. "You can't be ashamed of yourself, kiddo…"
She sensed that he was self-conscious about it, and so she decided to ignore them completely, and was about to start the conversation with some mindless small talk when he said,
"What was it like growing up?"
She raised her eyebrows, not sure if she had heard the question properly.
"If you don't want to talk about it, I understand," he continued.
"No, no, it's just…I was thinking." She ran her finger along the lip of her cup, tracing it. "It's something I've never really talked about before." She shrugged. "It's a boring story. Something for another time."
He was crestfallen, but he tried not to show it; his feeble attempt to warm up to her had resulted in her closing off from him entirely. He stared down at the table, at the bandages, the stinging in his wrists more punctual now. They seemed to cry out to him, to beg him to finish the job, but he knew that if he did, Sam would never forgive herself. She would feel his blood was on her hands, even though, in his mind, it was rightfully the other way around.
"Were you surprised that you lived?" she asked. She didn't mean to pry, she never did- all she was doing was continuing the conversation he'd had in his thoughts out loud.
He sighed, still uncomfortable talking about the subject, but willing to at least make a go of it. "A little," he whispered. "I knew you'd find me, you were always checking up on me. I just hoped you'd find me too late." A horrible image came to his mind, one of her holding his dead body, as she screamed and begged, blood covering her hands and forearms. He shut his eyes and tried to blot it out. "Truthfully, I'm disappointed it didn't work."
She stared down at her own hands, twisted and broken, flexing the garish fingers slowly. "I think you need to leave," she said.
The words were cold, icy, and they spread through Callum and gave him goosebumps, shivers, really, ones that ran down his spine. "Why?"
"Because this isn't a good environment for you."
"Well, shit, it's not exactly a good environment for anyone."
She looked up at him, pleading with her eyes. "You're not that far gone. You can leave, see a counselor, a therapist, maybe need some medication, but with time I think you'd be okay. But if you stay here, you're going to get so goddamn messed up, kid, you'll be like-"
"I'll be like you?" he finished.
She stared at him, dead in the eye, apathetic and enigmatic as ever. Who was the woman that lay beneath the black suit? Carefully, he reached out and grasped her hand, laying flat on the table. It was cold, so cold she felt almost dead, but he knew it wasn't her fault; it was the result of a genetic disorder, Raynaud's syndrome, something she had no control over. She couldn't help who she was.
"Think about it, kiddo," she said, choking back something. "After that first week, when you called me a monster-"
Memories flashed into his mind.
"-and hit me,-"
More of them, violent now.
"-you were pretty much spot on. Hell, I'll say it- I'm kind of evil. And I have nothing going for me. I'm not pretty, I'm not smart, I'm not funny. There are a million girls out there who are better for you, and you shouldn't be wasting your time around me. You need to get out of here. Settle down. Raise a family. White picket fence, two point two kids, the whole shebang. You're not the kind of person who should be running around with a crippled murderer and her cohorts."
"Then why is everyone else still here?"
"Salvie's never known anything besides this. She was a capo before this, bounced in an out of jail, not very good at being organized. She's never known what it means to be honest. Malcolm can't get a decent job anywhere because of who he is. If I turn him out, he'll be what he was before- a homeless alcoholic wandering the streets. Levvi thinks that if she sticks with us, Gary will come running for her because she's some kind of adventure hero. She's deluded by it. We're all so far gone that the idea of a normal life is foreign to us."