Pairing/Characters: Carnival [claim → main party]
Spoilers/Warnings: AU. Profanity (see: Carnival), talking around rape. Heavy subject matter. Spoilers for the last few chapters of Scar Night.
Summary: all I'm asking is to be alive for once.
This time Carnival got about six feet from the door before everything in her pressed in and in and she couldn’t breathe. The actual seizing up felt like forever but probably only took two seconds. After that she turned and bolted.
Maybe half a second later, she smacked full into him.
She only didn’t knock him over because her body realized he was a he, and launched her backwards. Like both hands hitting the keyboard at once. A loud crash, plunk and a long line of nonsense text.
He didn’t ask her if she was okay or tell her she didn’t look so good. He just pointed towards the lobby couch and told her “You’d better sit” with just the right amount of concern to get her to actually do it—and rest her head on her knees for good measure.
“If it matters, you’re not the only one who’s ever balked trying to walk through that door,” she heard him say, and then listened to his soft steps on the carpet.
Nerves told her to sit up, and she did, crossing her arms. “I bet I’m the only fucking loser sad enough to do it for two straight weeks,” she rasped.
He laughed. “I’ve got you beat there,” he said, and from him it was kind and not teasing. “It took me the better part of four months to manage it, and that was with a bevy of helpful friends pushing me every step of the way.”
Carnival opened her eyes wide and stared as he walked over to the vending machine, coaxed two bottles of cherry Pepsi out of it, and sat across the little coffee table from her. She watched him place one on its tiled suface and push it towards her.
And she knew. Beyond a doubt, she knew—him, too. So she picked the bottle up and untwisted the cap in slow movements, like Rachel always nagged her to do even though she liked to watch the foam spill out insanely.
“Does it ever get any easier?”
“Walking up to the door? Fuck no.” He brushed dull blond hair out of eyes that were an old kind of blue, a kind of blue that’s seen too much. “Once you’re through it, though, yes. In the long run? You’ve probably had too many trite words there for me to make a dent.”
He was maybe in his twenties—he had that kind of composure Alice had and her other friends didn’t. He was tiny, though. She’d have mistaken him for a kid if she hadn’t noticed.
It was probably the scars that made her ask. Thick on both wrists, thin on his face. Like some kind of understated overplayed kinship, a freak-like-me kind of thing.
“Who was it for you?” And she almost regretted the question as soon as it was out.
“A childhood friend—someone who was like an older brother to me.” He opened his own bottle, drank from it, and flipped the coin the other way. “You?”
And for some reason there wasn’t broken glass in her stomach when she forced the answer. “My father.”
“Only a few years, right?” he asked, and she nodded. “It’s been a little longer for me. It takes that—the years. I don’t know if I’ll ever be back to normal really, you know?”
She did. She did know.
“It’s the people around you who’ll be the biggest help. Or hindrance. Or whatever.”
“Pushy friends,” she said dryly and made him laugh.
“Are yours as bad?” he asked when he was done.
And that was how she wound up telling him about the garage-band-but-not-really, and falling out of the tree and into Dill’s life. Idiot, sweet puppy-dog Dill. The fights with Rachel and cheerful Mina and quiet Alice and thinking there’s something for me here. Rachel having her back. Everything falling into place.
“You’re pretty well off already,” he said then.
“In comparison to?” she drawled.
“Idiots like me that break their hearts over their best friend, try to start healing with someone as fucked-up as they are, then all but flat trip over The One when they aren’t looking. Trust me, you’re doing fine.”
Carnival didn’t know about that. She opened the Pepsi and drank some—sharp and cold and bursting.
“It doesn’t get easier, but you get used to it,” he told her, and she wondered why the hell that made so much damn sense.