@rory tbFH like!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! dam! slow down the pace! can i get some real time action here
Give me Pidge, running around that plaque (And what the fuck does that even mean, “The quest for freedom is won through sacrifice”? Is that supposed to be a platitude for the dead, or for the living?) like her life depends on it. Give me Pidge slipping, sliding, all over the damn place as she runs full-tilt down the longest corridor of her life, pushing herself off the floor and walls, all in an effort to be faster (like that’ll change anything) (like it’s not already too late).
Give me Pidge coming out on the other side, tripping, as she tries to sprint and stop and backpedal all at the same time. Give me Pidge saying oh no, no, no, no, no, no, please no as she stares out at 127,098 markers worth of graves. Some are lit. Most are not. All of them stand there quietly, almost fading into the background if it weren’t for the fact that they are the background. Unobtrusive, except for the fact that they stretch out as far as the eye can see and even further still. None of them cast a shadow.
Give me Pidge standing there, breathing heavily, transponder ticking away at her- a constant reminder that time is slipping away from her. That she’s run out of time, she thinks, before immediately pummeling the thought away with a viciousness that would make Keith proud. Move, she tells herself. Stay, her head (the one thing that can’t be hacked) begs. I need to know the truth. But then I’ll know. Do I even want to know?
I have to know, she says.
She throws herself down the cliff before she can change her mind.
When she lands, her feet give out and she collides with the ground. Her helmet protects her head from the rocks, but it can’t stop her from accidentally biting down on her tongue. Her eyes instinctively tear up as she gags on the pain and memories the fall knocks loose; Matt and her as children, running around, falling down. Helping each other up. Apologizing, forgiving, healing. Crying over each other’s cuts and scrapes like the other’s pain was their own. Taking care of each other.
This time, Matt isn’t there to offer her a hand and a worried look and a first-aid kit. There is no pick-me-up cake. There are no pep talks on the roof, or secrets shared under the stars. She gets up anyway. Her left leg threatens to buckle as limps along, but a good shake gets it back in working order and she sets out on as fast a pace she can manage.
The beeping of the transponder becomes her guide and lifeline. She swears her heart beats in time with it, especially as the pace steadily picks up. She runs for what must be miles and hours, zigzagging around markers or leaping over them with a quick mutter of apology to the dead, eyes glued to the little device in her hand. Her brother’s face stares up at her, mouth set in a neutral line unlike any expression he work back home. She forces her legs to move a little faster. Her breath clogs up her visor and her hair stays plastered against her face no matter how hard she flicks her head, but those are minor annoyances compared to the thoughts that run through her mind. Memories, one after another, meshing together into one constant stream of Mattmattmatt. Of their family. Of Mom and oh, no, Mom. Dad, who is a breakdown for another day. Bae-Bae. Half-forgotten moments from their old day-to-day lives, things she’d taken for granted at the time. Each one makes her breathing a little heavier, her pace a little faster, her stride a little longer. She’s so close to the marker that represents Matt, she’s so close.
She can’t remember Matt’s voice over the sound of her own wheezing.
The beeping of the transponder crescendos, and Pidge’s heart stutters in her chest. The screen bleeds red in an angry warning, Matt’s marker overlapping with her own position. She can see markers waiting for her on either side in her peripheral vision; when she takes a shaky step backward, she feels one press against her lower back. Her suit can provide her enough oxygen to survive in space for over twenty-four hours, but Pidge can’t breathe. Look up, the transponder tells her. Look up already.
Matt turns around, a faint smile on his lips, and Pidge opens her eyes to a grave.