“Oh, fuck my head,” Cris said, groaning on the couch.
“That is exactly what it feels like,” Sonya said. “Did somebody fuck my head last night? And just skip the foreplay, gentility or even a pretense of civility.”
“You have no idea how many of my buttons you’re pushing right now,” Anita said without removing her face from the seat of a recliner. “Most prominently the one marked ‘blinding white-hot migraine.’”
“Close,” Laren said, stretching in the doorway, her skin glistening under a dewy layer of perspiration, “but I think the culprit was grain alcohol.”
“Would someone put me out of my misery and shoot her?” Anita asked.
“Okay,” Rui said, groaning, “I get why she isn’t hung-over,” he pointed at Rox (or at least one of her) as she walked in behind Laren, “even if I kind of hate her in this moment. But you had nearly as much to drink as Tso. And I’m pretty sure even half of what he did to that poor, unsuspecting toilet violated the Geneva Conventions.”
“I hate myself for asking,” Sonya said, preemptively wincing, “but you’re bifurcating based on orifices, aren’t you…”
“I’m more preoccupied with the fact that not only did they escape last night unscathed, but they went for a run this morning,” Cris said. “By the way, I can help with hangovers. Upset stomachs will have to wait until I’ve got something non-fermented in my stomach, first.”
“But I have rumblies in my tumblies,” Ben said, though it was hard to make out over the gurgling in his belly.
“Rui,” Rox said, clapping to a chorus of groans, “get Ben back in the bathroom, or you’re going to have to help him burn his underwear.”
“I can’t imagine why I would have dreamed it, so I think we did that last night already- though I can’t remember why,” Rui managed to get to his feet, swaying noticeably.
“Cris, your first job this morning is getting everyone fighting fit. We’re going to war this morning, every last one of us. Because fuck the entire concept of a moral taint, and Tso I swear to god if you chortle-”
“Heh,” Ben chuckled to himself, “immoral taint.”
“Why did I invite that on us? Anyway, we’re not wimpy philosophers. We eat moral quandaries for breakfast, but also bagels, which we grabbed on our run.” She lifted a small bag for emphasis. “To wit: this is only a conundrum if you focus on our culpability, whether or not we need to feel bad about ourselves. Well, we’re already a dangerously self-loathing bunch, so I’m less worried, there. The rest of us, though? All the poor fucking kids back at the school, or the even less fortunate ones who haven’t made it there yet, or even can’t? If we let this shit happen, it hurts them, maybe in ways it will take their entire lifetimes to walk back.
“But beyond the fact that I know you’re all tough enough to handle the difficult question: you don’t have to. Because I am dictating. It’s the right thing to do, for the most fucked up of reasons- because it will make life harder for our friends and families if we don’t. But I’m taking it out of your hands. I’m telling you to suck it up and do it. Blame me for it if you need to- hate me for it even. But know that we’re helping a lot of people who couldn’t help themselves. Even if, given half the chance, I’d light the bigoted prick on fire myself.”
“What does being given half a chance to light someone on fire look like?” Ben wondered aloud, leaning so far on Rui’s shoulder they both looked ready to topple.
“I think them falling asleep when you’ve got ready access to matches and maybe lighter fluid,” Sonya offered.
“What if we feel really strongly about not helping?” Rui asked.
“You leave,” Rox said. “Maybe even join Raif. But I don’t think any of you will do that. Because you know I’m right. And even if you can’t know, completely, you know it’s better to think I could be, and have that cover, than to place that kind of bet without it.”