It had been a month. A month of planning, of meticulous research and Kevin snapping at him to focus when his mind was back in Henrietta, Virginia, and it had all gone to shit.
Had all gone to shit because Dick Gansey had called him from the car, with hysteria in his voice as he told Andrew that “Matthew’s gone”
Fucking Kavinsky. Andrew had spent so long sitting on rooftops, trying to get himself to feel, and had finally managed it, only to remember exactly why he stopped feeling in the first place.
Anger hurt. Anger was burning him up.
He was on fire, speeding down the highway with gritted teeth, biting the inside of his mouth until he could taste blood. He’s angry because he thought he was done with this shit, and Bee’s voice is buzzing in his ear, and all he can hear is that buzz and all he can see is blown-out eyes.
Joseph Kavinsky would be the death of him, if he let him. But Andrew had spent too long trying to survive to give up now, so he floored the gas pedal and sped towards Henrietta, Virginia.
He’d already been in the car when he’d got the call- today was the Fourth of July, and it was the day Joseph Kavinsky was going to die.
It happened in a field, of all places. A field full of dreams and liars and fireworks that lit up the sky. Ronan and his posse of idiotic teenagers weren’t here yet, but somewhere in this field Kavinsky had stashed Matthew Lynch away.
A man came to close, staggering and stumbling against Andrew as he tried to grab him to steady himself. He stopped just before he touched him, maybe seeing the look in Andrew’s eyes.
He scanned the field, and realized that one of the hundreds of identical white cars seemed to be right on the outskirts of the field, away from the bonfire and the fireworks but overseeing the people who trickled in, bottles in their hands and white powder in their pockets. It was almost as if it was watching them.
He turned away from the preparations, and slowly approached the car. He could make out a figure in the front seat, but it had black hair, not Matthew’s gold.
Andrew slid into the passenger seat, and gazed out a shattered windscreen at a field of white Mitsubishi’s. There was going to be a party here; there was a car burning somewhere off to his left, and he could hear the whoops and jeers as Kavinsky’s pack of friends threw things onto the bonfire and tipped vodka down their throats, the burn of the alcohol making them splutter.
It seemed that burning was a common theme tonight.
The windows of the car were darkened slightly, and the cracks webbing through the glass made it opaque and almost delicate looking. You couldn’t see anything outside, except a warm orange glow that lit up Kavinsky’s face as he turned to Andrew.
With a start, Andrew realized that his eyes were brown. A dark brown, almost black, but not quite- there was a person behind those eyes, one who wasn’t high for the first time since they’d met. No, Kavinsky’s pupils weren’t blown out, pools of black that threatened to drag you into their hollowness right along with them. You could see their colour, one that had always been too thin of a ring around those black holes to tell what they really looked like.
It seemed wrong, for Andrew to observe this. Uncomfortable in a way that felt like he was intruding on something sacred or maybe awful. He was seeing Kavinsky without his masks or his drugs, one that didn’t care enough anymore to keep up any of his faces.
Andrew didn’t want to see this. There was something wrong in his eyes- there always was, but this was wrong in a different sense. He looked angry, yes- he looked furious. The burning car outside, the one he could feel the heat of even from here, paled in comparison to the fire in Kavinsky’s eyes. But he also looked almost scared, as if he knew what andrew had planned for this evening.
Those awful eyes flicked down to his armbands.
When Kavinsky spoke, his voice was quiet. It whispered, like this was holy ground. A church, perhaps. It could have been a sacred moment in time, for the way K seemed scared to break the quiet as if the silence was the only thing holding him up.
“Why’d you do it?”
It was clear what he was talking about, when his eyes lingered on black armbands.
“What’s it like, wanting to die for so long? How’d you keep on going?”
This was what made Andrew speak. “I didn’t want to die.”
And he hadn’t. Those scars on his wrists were just the evidence that Andrew had clung so desperately to his life that he was willing to bleed for it, to bleed for the mother he hadn’t had. He’d done what was necessary to keep on going, to keep him from ending it by taking back the smallest bit of control. He had spent so long with people taking what they wanted from his body, but those times he had been reclaiming it for himself.
He had gripped onto life with everything he had. But it hadn’t been real, the life he was clinging to. He knew that now, that it hadn’t been worth spilling his blood over a woman who’d smile as if that stopped his suffering.
But that wasn’t what Kavinsky wanted to hear.
“I think I get it now, Andrew. Always thought you were crazy, with those knives. I get it now.”
Kavinsky hadn’t turned his longing inwards. He’d left his mark on the world, left the wreckage behind his explosions. Pain turned outwards, into cutting words and too sharp teeth, while he’d tried to fill his empty soul with drugs and alcohol, and had only succeeding in making himself even more hollow.
“Tell me this. You’re like Ronan, you don’t lie. Tell me the truth.”
He was right- Andrew wouldn’t lie to him, whatever he asked. With whatever was whirling through K’s head right now, Andrew wasn’t sure if the truth was what he needed.
But that’s what he would give.
“Would you save me? Would you go back for me?”
Andrew heard the question that went unasked. Would anyone in the world, anyone he hadn’t dreamed up himself, care enough about Joseph Kavinsky to try and pull him out of the fires he built underneath himself?
He told the truth. “No.”
Maybe Lynch would. Andrew didn’t know what was between them, but Lynch had come back to the barns with a perfect replica of an orange Camaro, and without Kavinsky. He must have been doing it with K, if he’d managed anything like that in only a night. Then he’d gone back to Gansey, leaving Kavinsky with nothing but a field of white Mitsubishi’s and a dream that nodded along to whatever he said.
But Lynch wasn’t a killer. Wouldn’t leave him to die. Andrew had proved time and time again that he would do anything for his family, that he would sacrifice everything for the people he cared about, and that he could count on one hand the number of people he’d go back for in a zombie apocalypse.
Aaron, Nicky, Kevin, Bee.
There was space for one more on that list, one more finger left to go. Maybe he’d find someone, another stray to take in and break their promises and leave Andrew with nothing more than even more pain and memories he could never let go of.
But Kavinsky wasn’t that person. Kavinsky wasn’t in his story- they weren’t each other’s stories.
So Andrew just looked at him, at the hair and the glasses and the rips in his designer clothing and those awful, too-familiar eyes. Then he spoke, flatly and without any emotion.
Kavinsky laughed then. It was probably the first time Andrew had heard him laugh, properly and without a drug-induced mania. There was nothing left in Kavinsky, not drugs or promises or anything tethering him to the world except that fire in his eyes.
“He’s in a white car.”
The glass in the windows of the car was cracked and opaque, but through the fog Andrew looked out onto a field of cars, hundreds and hundreds of identical white cars.
He didn’t spare Kavinsky another look as he slid out of the car, but through the open door he could see the way K slumped back, his eyes drifting closed as he fell into sleep. Those white sunglasses settled awkwardly on his nose, in a way that must be digging in, but Kavinsky didn’t seem to notice.
He would’ve come back. Not to save Kavinsky, but maybe not to kill him either. Maybe he would have left the Moriyamas for good, if he’d lived.
Instead, Andrew had watched from the other side of the field, impassive, as fire raged at whatever horrors Ronan had created to fight it. He watched as Ronan pleaded, as Kavinsky grinned one last time. He didn’t hear what he said, but he could see his lips move even from here.
‘The world’s a nightmare.’
And wasn’t that true. The world was a nightmare because they made it so, because people were cruel and selfish. Kavinsky had only ever made his own little corner of the world even worse.
He was dead, so it was over.
There was no finality to it, no heavy weight that settled onto Andrew’s shoulders. Maybe there should have been, but there wasn’t. He looked at the body with the same blankness as his mother’s, checked the pulse, then let the still-warm wrist fall back to the floor.
For once, he was glad of his blankness. After all, coping mechanisms develop for a reason. He didn’t want to think about what emotions might be running through him if he let them.
Kavinsky had been an annoyance. A convenient, though irritating, presence that Andrew had hardly thought about since he left juvie, and who he wouldn’t miss. Perhaps Bee would have some things to say about that, and he would listen and deny them and slowly, grudgingly accept- there was a reason she’d lasted so long, after all.
There would be someone new, eventually, to catch Andrew’s interest. Maybe Kevin would follow through on his promise, and give Andrew something to live for, or maybe it would be someone else, someone with just as much fire as Kavinsky, but who wouldn’t burn Andrew in the crossfire.
For now, Kevin was safe, and Riko was powerless, and Andrew was as empty as ever. There was no more pain, no more pleasure, no more spikes of anger or contentment. He was empty, and Kavinsky was dead.
So Andrew walked into a field of fire, of alcohol and swarming teenagers, drinks and cigarettes and white Mitsubishi’s, and left Joseph Kavinsky behind, white sunglasses masking black eyes that turned out not to be so black after all.