So, I'm waiting at the airport now. My flight is in about...thirty minutes, figured I'd kill some time talking to my favourite people in the world. And the rest of you, I guess. I was just flicking through all the recordings on my iPod, kinda hoping I didn't get to the latest one, even though I knew I would eventually. It's sort of...heavy;
Me: -I'm lying on my bed with my face buried in my hands and my backpack on the floor beside me-
Ava: -she knocks on the door- Ray?
Me: -pull my hands down my face- Yuhuh?
Ava: -she folds her arms and leans against the doorframe, purses her lips and frowns- You still beating yourself up?
Me: I find it hard not to at this stage. It's just habit now.
Ava: Well, habits can be broken.
Me: I know, dear.
Ava: So break it. -she frowns at me-
Me: I would, if I could, but I can't, so I won't.
Ava: Huh, I had a cat poster that said that once.
Me: Ava, two days after my mother died is probably not the best time to be considering how to self-improve.
Ava: Well it's better than self-destructing or mental self-flagellation.
Me: Ava, right now, I don't need a lecture, I need you to lie down beside me and hold me tight.
Ava: -she walks into the room and starts eyeing the mirror on the opposite wall- No you don't. You need to get your head on straight.
Me: Ava, the sensible thing isn't always the right thing. Give me time to grieve.
Ava: -she grabs one of the folded sheets from the bottom of my bed and throws it over the mirror, before turning to me, arms folded and frowning again- I wasn't attacking your grieving, I was attacking your fallacy that you could have done something to prevent it. I've sat Shiva before, I know you need to grieve. I'm not an idiot.
Me: My mother would be alive if I hadn't gotten involved with all this.
Ava: And who got her involved?
Me: Redlight, because I tried to get the Heel.
Ava: Redlight because WE tried to get the Heel and because he was a mental, vindictive, petty shitehawk.
Me: Yeah, but we knew there would be a reprisal for trying to get the Heel. We were just too stupid to remember that our families could have been the targets of the retaliation rather than us.
Ava: ...you cannot be serious, Ray.
Me: The Heel wasn't essential or necessary, we chose to go after it and we didn't consider our families would get hurt in retaliation.
Ava: "Not necessary"!? Of course it was "necessary"! It could have helped us!
Me: "Could" implies doubt. There was no guarantee that it would help us. It was advantageous but not necessary.
Ava: We are living day-to-day with the thought that any single one of us, or even us ourselves, could be brutally murdered by a bloody Eldritch Abomination and you're suggesting that we should have wussed out and NOT grasped for the advantage?
Me: I don't know, Ava, I never claimed to be rational. I'm not going to see you for like a week after I leave, don't you want to spend just a few minutes cuddling together like a normal couple or something?
Ava: Normal couple? NORMAL couple? Hookay hun, considering that you thought you were a forty-year-old superman for god knows how long, I wanted to kill you not only a few weeks ago and I'm still having to deal with this feeling of wanting to hit you when you angst-out on me like this I think we're not exactly normal. Ray, when Redlight burnt down my house, I didn't blame myself. When your mother killed herself, you shouldn't either.
Me: Ava, please, please, just shut up. I know I'm being a fucking eejit, okay? Is it too much to ask for you to just hold me and tell me everything will be okay? 'Cause that's what I need right now, not you giving out to me.
Ava: Actually, yes. Yes it is. I don't think I want you touching me.
Me: Right, wouldn't want to infect you with human emotion or anything.
Ava: -she walks over to the bed and punches me in the stomach- You've infected me with QUITE enough, thank you. -she turns to walk out-
Me: -I jump up in bed- What the hell!?
Ava: -she stops at the door- Just...nothing. Just. Stop being an idot, go home, talk with your family, don't fling yourself into the grave in despair.
Me: Why wait until I get to the graveside? I already feel like throwing myself out the window right here with the way you're acting.
Ava: Oh my god, Ray, get a fucking spine already.
Me: Right, yeah, I was actually gonna try and cut the flight close so I could spend more time with you but you clearly don't want to deal with me right now, for whatever reason, so I'm just going to leave. -I get up and start putting the last of my stuff in my backpack-
Ava: FINE. And take your FUCKING iPod with you too. -she slams the door shut-
Me: -I finish packing and punch a hole in the wall for good measure, then I cross the room, open the door and am about to go down the stairs but I stop and walk over to Ava's room and knock-
Ava: Fuck off, please.
Me: Ava...please open the door.
Ava: No thank you. Now please leave, be careful and give my condolences to your family.
Me: Ava, I'm not leaving until you open the door.
Ava: Then you're going to miss your flight. Go AWAY, Ray.
Me: I can live with a missed flight, Ava. Please open the door.
Me: Why not?
Ava: Because I don't think I can take being around you at the moment.
Me: What's wrong? What did I do?
Ava: Something. I am not opening the door and you are not missing your flight. I'll talk to you later, but not now. Not today.
Me: Ava, I was almost constantly at your side for over two weeks, day and night, watching over you, hoping that you'd wake up. Then, when you woke up, you told me that you hated everyone else in the world except me and a few others. Now, you won't talk to me and you won't tell me why. What did I do to deserve this?
Ava: Something changed. Now could you PLEASE stop with the fucking Inquisition and get going?
Me: I have time to burn and you have no patience. I can wait.
Ava: Not if I go and have a shower before going to sleep.
Me: Ava, Thage isn't going to be living here very long, so I'm not above smashing the door down. I did it in the last house, I can do it here.
Ava: Please, PLEASE, fuck off, Ray.
Me: Ava, give me one good reason or the door is coming down. I dont fucking deserve this, Ava, I really fucking don't.
Ava: You're right, you don't. But I really need alone time and you being in this room, with me, would only exacerbate the problem. Please, I still love you, but please, GOD, please, fuck off.
Me: Fine. You've made your point. I'll leave. -I turn to walk down the stairs-
Me: -I sigh and start walking down the stairs, my third step punctuated by the sound of Ava smashing her mirror against the door and possibly sobbing-
Thage: -she walks in from fencing practice, wiping her forehead with a towel, just as I reach the bottom of the stairs- So, you're going?"
Me: Yeah, the funeral's tomorrow. I'm gonna sleep on the plane and the train.
Thage: Do you have a few minutes?
Me: Sure, I gave myself plenty of time to lounge around the airport and get a milkshake. What's up?
Thage: -she leads me into the sitting room and sits down, laying her epeé across her lap- We've butted heads a few times, and I wanted to say that despite the moral disagreements we've had, you and Ava are my best friends. I really, really enjoyed having you two here with me.
Me: Even with the collateral damage? And Slender Man's ever-growing presence?
Thage: Those were bound to happen eventually anyway.
Me: If you say so. I punched a hole in your wall by the way.
Thage: -she blinks in surprise- ...okay...
Me: I had an argument with Ava.
Thage: Oh my.
Me: She walked in on me lying on my bed and started bitching and lecturing me and then we started arguing about something only she won't tell me what it is. I don't even fucking know.
Thage: -she just blinks more-
Me: Luckily for your wallet, she managed to stop me smashing her bedroom door down again. I think she resmashed the mirror though. Sorry.
Thage: Eh, I have a few extras in other rooms.
Me: You are a true pragmatist, Thage.
Thage: Just prepared, considering present company. -she winks and flashes a grin-
Me: -I laugh- You're a great woman, Thage. -I smile- Meeting you was an amazing experience.
Thage: -she grins- Not so much on the great part, but I'll make it work. And it's been the most fun I've had in, well, years. Is Ava going with you?
Me: Yesterday, she wanted to come but I decided she still needed to regain her strength after being unconscious in bed for so long, so I made her stay put. And now, today, she doesn't even want to be in the same room with me. -I sigh- Hopefully she still intends on meeting me in Egypt next week.
Thage: Don't worry, I'll make sure she stays the course.
Me: Thanks, Thage. When are you...you know, leaving?
Thage: Not sure. I suppose when it's no longer feasible to stay here.
Me: What's your prediction on that front? I know you've worked out all the maths of it somewhere. Hang on, the recorder on my iPod is spazzing. Gimme a sec.
Me: Okay, I think I've got it now. What's your prediction?
Thage: -she looks vigilantly out the window- Well... if things progress as normal, I should be able to hold off until the summer. Around then, I plan on selling the house here and in Maryland, and using the money to go on the run long-term.
Me: Sounds like a good idea. Do you want me to redact that if I post the conversation?
Thage: No, because where I'm going is staying up here. -she taps her head and grins-
Me: -I laugh- Fair enough...this is probably the last time we'll ever see each other, isn't it?
Thage: -she looks down at the floor, looking rather glum- Yeah.
Me: Thank you, Thage. For everything. For taking me in after Ava was kidnapped, for protecting my sanity when you realised my memories were false and...for being you. For being such a great and true friend. And the spaghetti, of course.
Thage: -she laughs- Can't forget the food. ...thank you too, for being here when I needed someone to tell me I was out of line.
Me: Any time. We may never meet like this again, but you can bet your Catholic ass I'll be more than happy to give you a good talking-to over the Internet if I have to.
Thage: I'll hold you to it. -she produces a survival knife and holds it out to me-
Me: What's this for? -I take the knife-
Thage: Something to protect yourself with. There's also a compass in the pommel.
Me: -I look at the pommel- Huh, so there is. -I look Thage in the eye- Thank you. I'll use it well.
Thage: If nothing else, it will help your sense of direction.
Me: I'm sure it will. Thank you.
Thage: -she looks out the window again- What's your plan for Eulogy?
Me: I'm going to try my best to help him but if I'm ultimately unsuccessful, then I think this knife is going to be the only help I can give. I have to admit, your methods are extreme but they're not without justification. Eulogy is too dangerous to leave both crazy and alive, so I figure if I can't fix the former, I'll just have to resolve the latter.
Thage: -she nods- Better safe than sorry, right?
Me: As much as I hate to admit it, yes.
Thage: I'm also concerned with the fact that even if Eulogy dies, someone else will try to rise to the top of that hierarchy.
Me: The top contender is Legacy, the guy who handles Arpeggio and Cadence, the two assassins who were hunting Cheska. Legacy's ascension may be advantageous though. He doesn't have any of Eulogy's ingenuity or strategy. He's rash and bold and he might just play into our hands.
Thage: There's that, yes, and if we play them right, we could ignite a civil war amongst the proxies.
Me: That'd be handy. Get them to do our work for us and keep Slender Man isolated.
Me: I'd better go. I want to make a post before I get on the plane.
Thage: Alright. -she gets up and hugs me-
Me: -I hug her back- You're a great person, Thage. Keep it up. And remember; survive.
Thage: That's the idea.
Me: I will if you will. -I pull away and look her in the eye- Goodbye, Thage.
Thage: -she holds out her fist- Take care of yourself. It's a jungle out there.
Me: -I fistbump her- But sometimes, you just have to roll the dice.
Thage: Roll and never regret it.
Me: I won't if you won't.
Thage: Never do.
Me: Good. It was great meeting you, Thage. -I hug her quickly and give her a peck on the cheek- Take care of Ava until I can, okay?
Thage: Of course.
Me: Okay, the taxi just pulled up outside, I definitely have to go. Goodbye. -I run out the door, waving over my shoulder as I go-
I had to go through customs about halfway through typing this out. They didn't even notice the fucking survival knife inside my laptop case. So much for tight American airport security. Hmmm, my flight just got called. I'd better get on board. I'm gonna rest the shit out of myself for as long as I can, so I'll probably post after the funeral.