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Hunger Pangs

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Daisy’s never been much of a people person. She’s just never had the time or the energy to figure it out. Why bother, when most of the people she met were sick shits wholly undeserving of her time? Besides, making small talk with people she intends to kill leaves a bad taste in her mouth.

So, when Basira invites her out to the bar, Daisy has her reservations. She doesn’t want to go, not really, but she does want to spend time with Basira. It’s a tempting opportunity, but—

“I can’t,” she says, looking at Twitter as if it’s the most interesting thing in the world.

“Why not?” Basira asks, clearly annoyed and trying not to show it. She’s good that way, doesn’t want to make Daisy do anything she doesn’t want to do. But she knows how to put her foot down and insist, another thing that Basira has had plenty of time to practice.

“Don’t want to.”

“It’s not—” Basira huffs, tries to collect herself “—it’s not because of the whole Archivist thing, is it?” She says it like it’s a dirty word, like it’s not something that’s haunted Daisy for months now.

“No,” Daisy says, but she’s not too sure of it herself. She refreshes Twitter. No one’s posted anything new.

“Fine,” Basira says. “Don’t tell me. Don’t expect me to respond to any calls tonight, though, because I’m going out. And I’m going to have fun.”

“Whatever,” Daisy says. She doesn’t care, she tells herself, that Basira’s going off to have fun without her. Doesn’t quite process the fact that this is a plea, that Basira wants her to go, that Basira wants to have fun with her. Processing that would be dangerous, and Daisy’s had her fill of danger. More than enough, really.

The Buried marked her, changed her in ways that she can’t quite process. She should be more upset by it, but the nightmares don’t haunt her as they should—seeing Jon in her dreams has changed from terrible to comforting, just like that.

No, Daisy isn’t worried about the Buried. She’s a tad more claustrophobic than she used to be, but that’s fine. She can deal with that.

She doesn’t know how to deal with the Hunt. More specifically, she doesn’t know how to deal with this wretched lack of the Hunt. It fueled her for so long, kept her going. It gave her a goal, a mission in life, and that was all Daisy ever really needed.

Now, though, she has to face what she’s done. Her nightmares are cramped and crowded, yes, but there is a red tinge to the air, scents moving through the wind, and Daisy prowls through her dreamscape.

She hunts when she sleeps.

She’s afraid to be alone.

Being alone means that there is no one there to rein her in, keep her from giving in to the Hunt and reverting to the monster that she’d been—that she still is, if she's being honest with herself.

Every day without giving in leaves her thin and faded, as if she's being pulled apart at the seams. She’s hungry, and she thinks she understands what Jon feels, why he goes so far to get statements.

Jon. Maybe he can help, tell her what to do.

She stays in that night, staring at the walls and thinking they’re closing in on her. It’s rough. It’s terrifying. But Basira comes home and pulls her close, and Daisy thinks she sleeps. She doesn’t remember her dream that night, but she wakes up panting and sweaty, so she’s glad of it.

Basira has to take Melanie to therapy. She’s suggested Daisy try therapy as well, just to see if it’ll help, but Daisy isn’t up for it. She doesn’t want to talk to a stranger.

She talks to Jon, though. Asks to sit in on a statement so she doesn’t have to be alone. She can see the vestiges of a theater kid in him, and pities that child. If only that younger Jon had known where he’d end up. Maybe things would be different. Maybe it’d be another man in that chair, gesticulating as he records the misfortune of others.

She doesn’t say it. She just thinks it. Remembers that she’d tried to kill Jon, and almost succeeded. She wonders if it’d be better or worse if she’d pulled it off.

She doesn’t know. She really doesn’t.

“Do you dream about it?” she asks, feeding her curiosity so she can avoid this morbid train of thought.

“It?” Jon asks, attention on something else. Daisy fixes him with a look, unwilling to say it aloud.

“Oh! It. I- well, I don’t,” he pauses, frowns, “I don’t actually know, really.”

“You don’t know?” she asks, surprised that she isn’t surprised.

Jon shrugs, turning his attention to the tape recorder sitting on his desk. “I don’t really think about it all that much. I’ve got, ah, more pressing matters to consider.”

Daisy nods. It makes sense. Besides, she’d read somewhere that most people don’t remember their dreams. Makes sense that Jon falls in that same boat. She can’t imagine what he’d dream about. Her, pointing a gun at his head? Taking him to her spot, hungry for it, for that sweet taste of the—

no. She’s here to forget about all that, to keep her mind off it. She shrinks in on herself further, draws her knees closer to her chest, and savors the way her heart pounds in her chest as her body remembers what fear feels like. Not that stupid, human stuff, but the real thing. She needs to remember that, needs to keep herself under wraps, and this is the best way to make that happen.

She’s pretty sure Basira would disapprove, if she was here to comment. But she’s not, and Jon’s not exactly the scolding sort, so she embraces the faint smell of claustrophobia and moves on with it.

Jon looks at her, then, and it’s the sort of look she’s come to understand means trouble. It’s a “I don’t know how I know this, but I know it and I can’t unknow it so I’m just going to ask a leading question and hope for the best” sort of look. And he’s directing it at her.

What’s he discovered? That she became a murderer when she was a kid, that she fit in so well with the police because she was the thing that enabled their sort? Or was it something else, something less horrible, but far too intimate for Jon to know?

“How are you doing?” Jon asks, and his voice is so soft, so tender, that it makes Daisy’s skin burn.

“I’m fine,” she said brusquely, hoping Jon will get the message and move on to clearer waters.

But he doesn’t. Of course he doesn’t. Jon doesn’t know how to stop asking questions.

“Are you sure?” he asks, and there’s a quiver to his voice, a shift in the air, and Daisy knows he’s trying to be civil, trying to keep the Beholding at bay, but he’s doing a shit job at it and frankly, Daisy’s not in the mood to have anything else pulled out of her.

“I’m fine,” she snaps.

Jon looks at her. “Okay, then.”

“Okay?”

“Sure, why not? Everything’s weird and falling apart and we’re all doing the best we can. Me and- and you included.”

“You really think that?” she asks. She knows how Basira looks at her, how Basira sees Daisy’s abstinence as strength and not self-mutilation. She’s not doing her best. She’s never been at her best, not really, but the closest she’s come is when she’s blood-drunk and frenzied and—

She stops herself, makes herself smaller. She’s coping, kind of. It doesn’t seem to be working, not really, but she’s doing what she can. Not her best, she doesn’t think, but it’s something. She hasn’t killed anyone in a few months.

What a strange thing to feel proud of.

Jon’s done with his statement. Time moves so strangely, without her consent, without reason. One second after another—it’s more than she can deal with, now. Not after so long knowing that eternity stretched in between every moment, knowing that she was getting what she deserved, wishing she’d gotten it sooner.

Basira comes back. Melanie’s off at home, doing whatever it is she does after therapy, and Jon is still here, and so is Daisy. They make a strange dyad in the dark, dry office full of boxes and fire extinguishers, and Basira’s raised eyebrows make it clear what she thinks.

She doesn’t much like Jon, Daisy knows. Thinks he’s too weak, too evil, to be worth saving. She’s seen him extract statements when he could’ve just asked, and that’s made her think differently of him.

Daisy doesn’t look too hard at why Basira doesn’t think differently at her. She’s doing what she can, and she knows Jon is, too. Only he’s got different goals, goals that revolve around saving the world, around saving his friends, and the power he’s got now is the best way to do that.

She hopes he knows how to deal with this power. She hopes he’ll do better at it than her, that he’ll know when the power is using him, that he’ll know when to stop.

She hopes.

She hasn’t hoped in so long, and it’s a strange, melancholy feeling. She sits on the couch next to Basira, pulling her long legs to her chest as Basira flips through the channels before settling on a nature channel. Daisy wills herself not to watch, but the documentary goes to a pride of lions, and Daisy’s so hungry.

Despite eating recently, her body demands more. She’s wasting away, dying of a malnutrition that no doctor can control, and she can’t do anyting about it. She can’t fix it, can’t feed her soul without losing it.

“I’m going to bed,” she says when the Hunt gets to be too much. She can’t hurt anyone while she’s curled up beneath the covers.

Basira follows soon after, sitting by Daisy on the mattress.

“You okay?”

“Fine,” Daisy says, like she’s been saying so much lately. “Just dandy.”

“Okay,” Basira says, brushing Daisy’s hair across her forehead. “Just… you’ll tell me if there’s anything I can do to make it better?”

“Sure,” Daisy says, knowing that there’s nothing anyone can do to fix this. No one but her, her guns, and an unlucky fool. Her mouth waters at the mere thought of it, and she buries her face in the pillows.

Her lungs constrict, her heart races, her skin prickles with sweat. But she doesn’t stop.

She embraces the fear.

Then Basira embraces her, and it feels a little easier for a while. Like she can breathe even as her chest is collapsing in on itself. She focuses on Basira’s hands on her shoulder, on Basira’s hair against her back. She remembers that Basira trusts her, that Basira loves her.

She holds onto that love like a lifeline as she falls asleep, wrapped safely in Basira’s arms. There is nothing she can do to change the past, nothing she can do to dull this hunger, but she is loved. And so long as she remembers that, the hunger pangs hurt a little less. Not enough to disappear, but enough.

Daisy falls asleep, and it’s the first time all day she hasn’t felt like dying.