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Kelly sat beside Denny on the fallen log. He couldn't explain it, but it was comforting for him, reminding him of earlier, his terror, being in chains. Maybe he felt like he deserved that, and sitting there helped him remember that.
“That was shitty of me,” Kelly said.
“No,” he said, and shrugged. “It was heartily deserved, and really was a while coming. What I did... it was so much worse because I did it to you. You're one of my best friends, definitely one of my oldest.”
“Age before quality, I always say.”
“I'm sure it's no secret that I'm a font of self-loathing, but... I didn't want to hurt you. I'm still mortified about everyone else finding out. But now, how can't they? I'm the reason we're on this stupid trip- the reason Alan's dead, and Angel...”
“This isn't your fault.”
“Maybe not all my fault? I didn't create the monsters, or sic them on us. But we're here because of me. And... if that was torturing me right now, I'd feel a hell of a lot better, like I had my priorities straight and wasn't...” He sighed, and as the air went out of him his spine bent until his elbows rested on his knees. “-What I am.”
“A person without straight priorities?”
“Kind of. But I can't even think straight, the thought's been rattling around in my head so long. What did you two talk about, on the beach?” Denny asked.
“He loved you. Very much. Wanted me to know it wasn't personal, but that... he wanted to be with you.”
“Fuck,” he said. “That's worse.”
“I thought... I thought he was going to end things, try and patch things up with you. And I know what I did... it was fucked up. I betrayed you- and him, really, by making him a party to my betrayal. But that would have been okay, if he'd gone back to you, where I think I always knew he belonged. Sometimes love means fucked up people making mistakes because they need to, knowing how much damage it could do. But I never thought... I didn't think I could do any lasting damage. I never even, I didn't think he could want me, not the way I wanted him. When I touched him, I expected to get slapped down. And when I didn't... I knew I was trespassing, like I was stealing the apple in the garden. And I knew it ended in tears, but it just made me so happy in that moment...
“Christ, I'm such an unmitigated dick. You lost Alan, too, and before that I hurt you, and made him hurt you, too. And I'm blubbering to you like-” He stopped, and took a deep breath. “You deserved better. You were a good friend and a good girlfriend to him, and we both suck for hurting you. And I'm sorry. If I could have done anything else... but it felt like I couldn't. Like I was trapped, between him and...” He unconsciously touched the scars at his wrists.
Kelly had never asked him about them, not directly. But they had classes together in high school, when he disappeared for a few weeks. He came back with bandages on his wrists, and when those came off, scars. She didn't ask because she could tell he didn't want to talk about them then, though she tried to leave herself open to it if he did.
“Love can make you a real dick,” Kelly said. “I started out this trip full of wrath and self-pity. But after what we've been through these last few hours... it's hard to really hold a grudge against someone helped you fight off a man-eating monster.”
“So it's a temporary stay of execution, then?”
“I'm not sure how temporary, exactly, but yeah, probably better to think of it that way. I'm not saying I won't hold shit against you if we make it back into the world-”
“When,” he insisted.
“But I don't think I want to, for whatever that's worth.”