Course Correction

by lingonberryjelly

Course Correction


Hi,” he said.

Jane’s boyfriend stood in front of the shelves in the basement of the abandoned church where she’d been staying.

She was coming down from a very large hit of very cheap smack as she lay on a pallet on the floor and felt like she was being crushed under a giant warm teddy-bear.

She wasn’t an addict, and was pretty sure she’d kick the habit once her wounds healed. She’d just needed painkillers and hadn’t been in a position to seek conventional medical help.

She realized her boyfriend was actually standing there and shook her head to clear her thoughts. He looked about the same as he had the last time she’d seen him, maybe a little tired, and now he had a carpet knife sticking out of his shoulder, most of the blade buried in the meat.

His other arm was outstretched, and shaking. Her eyes followed the sleeve of his coat. He had a girl’s throat in his hand. Olena, the Russian assassin Jane had been bunking with for the last week, was dangling there, her toes scraping at the floor; it must have been her carpet knife.

Who’s this?” he asked.

Olena,” Jane said. “Could you put her down?”

‘K,” he said, and dropped her.

This- man-” Olena said, coughing as she sat on the concrete floor, “is- asshole.”

She stabbed me before I choked her,” he said, and pulled out the knife, tossing it back to her. “You don’t look well. You get shot?” he asked. His face was as dead as it always was, but his tone sounded concerned.

Olena was eying him, probably waiting for another opportunity to strike.

It might have been the heroin still fogging her brain, but it felt almost like the last two weeks hadn’t happened, like he hadn’t left her behind, but, even if those two weeks felt like a bad dream, Jane was still pissed.

Where were you?” she asked, standing up from her pallet, but then the room started to spin around her. She wasn’t running on all cylinders. The bullet hole in her left leg, and the two in her right, were screaming, and the concrete floor raced toward her face until her boyfriend caught her.

You seem… really not good,” he said, cradling her more gently than he usually did. “How many times were you shot?”

I think Cook said, eleven, but a few were just grazes.”

Who shot you, Jane?”

They’re dead now,” she said.

It wasn’t that his lips had shifted by a hundredth of an inch, but his eyes were smiling, and she smiled back.

I heard Nerio got killed. That and this connected?” he asked.

Yeah,” she said. “I was out of ammo, so I stabbed him with a piece of wood.”

Like a vampire?”

Yeah, but it was in the neck- he was all gurgly…. You should have been there.”

I know,” he said, and, still holding her gently, he kissed her.

Despite the sweet warmth, which was, she was sure, only partially from the heroin, he’d mentioned vampires, and that had brought up a strange memory in connection with his kiss.

Months before, when he’d been helping her wipe out the Eighteenth Street branch of the Phoenix Feathers, she’d recognized her attraction to him, but she’d still been grieving for her sister. The first kiss they’d shared was at her instigation. She remembered telling herself it was just curiosity. His skin was naturally pale, and she’d thought, possibly because of his personality, that his skin would be icy cold. It wasn’t, but that curiosity was all the justification she’d needed at the time.

I’m sorry I left you,” he said, and she was back in the present.

Was it a dead relative, or something?”

There were dead people,” he said, chuckling with a straight face.

I lost your MP5,” she said. She’d looked for it on her way out of Nerio’s compound, but the bullets knocking around in her gut had been a more pressing concern.

I can get another,” he said, standing up with her in his arms.

Olena was still sitting on the floor, staring dejectedly at the concrete.

Later,” Jane said, as her boyfriend carried her out, but Olena said nothing.

Jane had been expecting sunshine, for some reason, but it was dark outside as he carried her up the steps, out of that church basement, and into the graveyard.

Her boyfriend stopped walking when they were almost to the fence. “Friendly,” he said, and held her tighter.

You’re never friendly,” Abernathy said, stepping out from the shadow of a tree. Her dark skin was shiny in the moonlight. She wasn’t wearing her face-paint, and Jane realized the other girls who stayed at the church were missing. Maybe they’d been out getting a bite.

Hi, Abernathy,” Jane said.

So…. I was about to take a bath,” Abi said, “but the Y was out of soap, and I sent Olena back to the house, and then we waited… and waited- What the fuck Jane?”

Jane couldn’t see what any of that had to do with her.

I didn’t kill her,” Jane’s boyfriend said.

Did Olena do that?” Abi asked, pointing at the bloody gash in his shoulder.

She must have thought I was somebody else. Thanks for this,” he said, nudging Jane in his arms like she was a borrowed lawnmower. “I owe you.”

…How ’bout you just stop killing people.”

You know that thing with the scorpion and the frog?” he asked. Jane knew where this was going.

…You saying it’s in your nature?” Abi asked. Her sneer singularly unpleasant.

Nah,” he said. “I’m the river.”

Jane laughed. It felt like she’d pulled some stitches.