Stef lifted the end of her T-shirt and wrapped it up over her head, like the beginnings of a ninja hood, and stared down at her chest.
The scar from the mirror’s entry still sat pink against her chest, refusing to go white like the rest of her old scars. It would, it just took time.
And time, unlike freedom or choice, was something she had.
I don’t want to leave. I don’t want to hide away with- With-
‘With my imaginary friend,’ she said, trying the words on for the thousandth time. Hook was real. Hook had always been real. He hadn’t been a dream and he hadn’t been a figment.
But he’d still left. He’d left her alone to deal with the coldness that was James and the weird, strained relationship with her mother. He’d left her in the mundane world, instead of taking her away to play with fairies and pirates and mermaids.
He’d left – she couldn’t remember when, and hadn’t come back.
She closed her eyes again, and leaned back against the wall of the oubliette, trying to remember if he’d been-
She opened her eyes, not wanting to think about Peter. There was enough wrong in the world without thinking about his desertion.
Peter had made it to Neverland. Peter was still in Neverland, and she was stuck in a bubble.
There had to be options. The situation couldn’t be as black and white as Ryan was proposing it to be.
Going back to the Agency was a no-go, that wasn’t hard to understand. He’d done something bad – really, truly bad – by bringing her back. He’d broken the Agenty Prime Directive and made a wish, and made her a bigger problem than she already was.
The Agency was one choice. Going to the Lost was another.
The idea of a Fae Court where she was guaranteed safety was…tempting, but it was too far away from the real world.
The thought was surprising – the real world was nothing but bad memories and worse connotations, a place full of pain, disappointment and loneliness. A place she would have given anything to escape. A place she had nearly given everything to escape.
And now there were things keeping her tied to the real world.
There was a man in a suit who inexplicably cared for her.
Ryan was one factor but-
She wasn’t going to back to the Agency. The thought kept hitting her – it was something she knew, but it somehow kept sliding away. It wasn’t somewhere she should have gotten so attached to so quickly, but it had seemed to just…fit, somehow, that maybe there had been a small space in the corner for her to be happy and – gods forbid – useful.
There had been Jones and the techs, people she actually had some minor inclination to get to know – or at least, lurk in their general vicinity. People who dealt with magic and spoke the same languages she did – English, code, and geek.
People who had shared M&Ms and quoted Princess Bride whilst watching angels and their minions work.
There was warmth on her cheeks, and she knew it was tears.
She wanted to go back to the Agency, with the science and the magic and the suits; and she had made that impossible.
‘He’s just late.’
Stef paced the four steps across the small space, turned, and walked back.
‘He’s just late.’
He does have a life outside of you, Spyder.
‘Yeah, but he-’ she felt her breath caught. ‘He- He comes and visits- He doesn’t…’ She turned and slid down to the floor. ‘Leave me,’ she said. ‘He doesn’t leave me alone, not like this.’
She dug her nails into her thigh. ‘I sent him away, didn’t I? It’s my fault.’
Stop it. You have no idea what’s going on outside of these four walls. It could be the apocalypse.
This seems like the safest place to be in an apocalypse. This isn’t even in the world…I’m pretty sure it’s not, anyway.
There was a squeak, and she flinched.
‘Shit,’ she muttered.
She’d woken the princess, who was, unfortunately, not in another tower.
Carol was a fascinating, and horrifying roommate – whether or not she counted as her first roommate was up for debate – Peter was her first if hospitals counted – but she was enough to put her off the concept entirely.
The woman had a routine, so much as someone even crazier than she was could have a routine.
And for most of the day, if she was left undisturbed, the madness was hard to see.
Night – for the uncertain variable that was “night” within a magic bubble, on the other hand, let the crazy out like nothing else on Earth. The moaning, the screaming, and the weird sliding across the partition that bifurcated the bubble.
She wasn’t the monster that Ryan had told her about, the crazed killer that had killed people – and Taylor, she didn’t seem like a psycho who had been covered head to toe in blood.
She was just another crazy girl who needed a safe space.
He wasn’t coming back.
He was never coming back.
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