When both pairs of hands were pruned beyond reason, when it felt like Avernus’ lake was about to start macerating, Phoebe drove the boat back to shore. It was time to stop running. She would tell Julia that she was ready, and she would tell Kirk about Silver. If he felt that something was so wrong with him, maybe they could both find solace in something being wrong with her, too.

The choice she had to make had been clear from that first reading, but Quill let her wait until she came to them. Until she’d processed. As they walked through the forest, it made her feel like the greenbriar that crawled on the ground was squeezing her heart.

“Do you miss them?” she asked.


“Your friends.”

Image: Phoebe and Kirk are seen from the back, walking out of Avernus and into Julia’s back yard. They’re both fully dressed again. To the left of Julia’s house are two black cars. Clouds gather in the sky. End description.

Kirk shook his head. “They weren’t my friends. And I don’t miss people.” He was looking straight ahead like his life depended on it.

“Really? Me neither.” It was a novel thing for her to voice, and with the way it caught Kirk’s attention it was probably a novel thing for him to hear.

“Is it like, after someone leaves-”

“You forget what it felt like to have them around?”

“That. Yes,” he said. They walked across the back yard and around to the porch. Phoebe wanted to talk to him more but there were two cars on the side of the road that she’d been watching since they exited the swamp, and they hadn’t driven away yet. Neighbors? No, all of the land around Julia’s property was farmed for corn. Bluebell was supposed to come by, but his car was in the shop. Visitors from the Society? Maybe.

Image: Phoebe and Kirk stand in the driveway, next to the porch. Parked at the end of the driveway is Julia’s truck, and on the other side of the gravel road is freshly-harvested farmland. Kirk faces forward, looking up at his raised hand. Phoebe is turned away with her arms crossed, looking at the two cars parked on the road. End description.



Happy New Year's Eve, everyone. This update is a little early today because I want to get a nap in before I drive down to see my friends :-)