Joss never admitted to anyone just how often he wished he was still on the road.

He'd been getting sick, he knew that. He hadn't been eating right or sleeping well and that way of life was... unsustainable. But was life now really any better? The food was, but he didn't give a shit about food really.

In the back of Kenzie's van he'd found something few people ever found: a love that crossed all boundaries, even death. And he'd discovered Teagan, and fallen half in love with her too. Those girls were forever entwined in his mind. Did he love Teagan, or was it Kenzie he was seeing? Joss lay away in his nest on the couch and contemplated this question, but he never got any closer to answering it than he had on the road.

He continued to get up, and go to classes. Classes gave him something else to think about but even so, the ghosts were always still there, haunting everything he did. This triumvirate of girls, Kenzie, dead and gone, Margo, dead but still here and haunting him, and Teagan, who showed up in the courtyard late one night, looking ghoulish, her skin pale and sickly against her newly darkened hair. May had helped her dye it, and then she’d spent a long time throwing up in the toilet because the dye smelled to her like rotting meat.

It had been seven weeks since he'd seen her. She didn't look good, but she looked like he felt. Dark hair didn't suit her, but short hair didn't suit him. Neither of them fit properly into their own bodies any more.

There were a lot of things he could have said. "Teagan..." he began, and lost it almost instantly.

"I need your help," she said, and he stepped forward and replied: "of course."

"Everyone hates me," she said, blankly. She held up her hands, turning them over, watching her fingers move. "I'm a murderer."

Joss took her hands. They were bony in his, and not strong. "No,"he said, and Teagan looked at him in disgust but she didn't pull away.

"Kenzie broke his heart and we tore his soul from his body," Teagan said. "I felt him die, and then I killed her. I sent her back to her mother. I sent her back to Patrick Ravensdale."

"No," said Joss again, but with no conviction.

"Why am I still breathing?" Teagan asked him, the intensity of her glare piercing right through him. "Why are you?"

"I don't know," Joss shook his head. "Most days I wish I could just stop."

Teagan pulled up his hands and placed them around her neck. Joss flinched, but held her gently. Her skin was cold and her heart beat frantically beneath it. “What are you doing?” he asked.

She pushed her neck harder against his hands and he tried to pull them away, but her hands were round his wrists. He could have broken her grip, he could have pulled away, but… she was all he had left of Kenzie, and if she didn’t want to let go then…

When she kissed him, viciously, her claws dug into his wrists.

Joss knew he should have stopped it, but he also knew that he hadn’t felt right in a long, long time and Teagan was probably the only one who could begin to understand.

He knew he should have stopped it because he didn’t feel like kissing, and her body next to his just felt like a body, too close, her fingers dangerously sharp and her teeth too hard against his mouth.

He knew he should have stopped it because April had told him about Teagan’s brain injury, about how angry and distant she’d become, how full of guilt and self-hatred. She felt thinner than he remembered, and Teagan had always been a bit waiflike, but now she was all bones and hard edges.

But she kissed him like she needed him, so Joss didn’t stop.

He took her hand and led her up to his room, because whatever they were going to do they weren’t going to do it where anyone could walk in on them.

Teagan followed, thinking of the last breath of the dying guard, thinking of the last, bitter thing she’d said to Kenzie before she killed her. By the time Joss closed his door behind them, tears were streaming down her cheeks and she felt like screaming. The coiled pain inside her strained to come out of her mouth as a scream.

Joss looked at her in horror, this girl he knew intimately, and at the same time, not at all: “Teagan?”

“Shut up,” Teagan swiped the tears off her face with the back of her hand. She grabbed the hem of his shirt and yanked it up, pushing him backward toward his bed. She bit down on the flesh of his neck, her fingernails in his back, and the way his muscles stiffened in pain was almost as satisfying as screaming.

“Stop,” he said, and she looked at him with such a vile look in her eyes.

“Why?” she said. “You didn’t stop, when I wanted you to.” Teagan shoved him backwards onto his bed, tears streaming from her eyes again. “Why should I?” She stood over him as he began to sit up, a story of guilt and horror written all over him.

Mouth open, Joss shook his head. He didn’t want to say I’m sorry because sorry couldn’t begin to cover it. He knew he shouldn’t have slept with her that first night he found out she carried Kenzie with her, and they’d talked about it on the road – briefly – and though she’d told him she’d been swept up in things too, he never quite believed it, and he’d promised he wouldn’t do it again. She’d been so uncomfortable, shy, nothing like she was now. He barely even recognised her now.

Because he couldn’t say anything he let her kiss him again, let her push him down, one knee between his legs. He kissed her back; nothing else in the world felt right, so why should this?

That’s not true: some things in the world felt right. There was a safety, a sturdiness, that he found with Leon, and a kind of annoyed-strength in Merry. Either one of them would have made this better. Joss wished Merry was here to smack some sense into him; he knew he needed it, and knew she wouldn’t hesitate.

Fuck.

Joss pushed Teagan aside, not gently. “We need help,” he said, his voice breathy and lips sore. Teagan lay on her side where he’d shoved her, staring at him.

“There is no help,” she said flatly. “Everything is fucked. I’m fucked. You’re fucked.”

“Yeah,” Joss agreed, lying on his back, eyes on his ceiling. “We’re fucked. We need help.”

“I don’t need help, I need to die.”

He turned his head to look at her. Her arms were outstretched, skinny white arms marred with deep scars from the accident, her face red and wet, her eyes bloodshot. What she’d said should have sounded melodramatic, but it didn’t. And a part of Joss understood, he really did.

“Why am I still breathing, Joss? I’m a murderer. I killed Kenzie.”

“Teagan-”

“No!” Teagan shoved herself back up onto her hands and knees, glaring down at him. The energy in her voice picking up again, from flat to violently heated. “I killed Kenzie, Joss. I killed your girlfriend, your lover. Patrick Ravensdale sliced her up but I was the one who killed her!”

“Shut up!” roared Joss, throwing himself off his bed.

“Why should I? She never did. She screamed and screamed for me to stop but I didn’t! Just like she screamed and screamed when Patrick Ravensdale had her, but he never stopped either, he just kept cutting into her,” she spat the words out, as Joss stood at his doorway, hand on the doorhandle, staring at her in horror. “And I sent her to be with him, Joss!” Teagan stood, storming toward him. “Do you fucking understand that? They’re both dead and he’s going to be cutting into her forever and ever.”

“Shut up!” Joss grabbed her shoulders and spun her round, pinning her up against the door. Her head cracked against the wood. He heard it, and his temper sickened him, but he needed her to shut up. “Shut up shut up shut up!”

“Fucking MAKE ME!” Teagan screamed, straining against his grip, her face in his. “Fucking kill me if you want me to shut up, Joss!” She slammed her foot down on his and he cried out and released her, freeing her arms so she could punch him in the face. It wasn’t like punching Shiloh, his face was a lot harder than a kid’s, and pain shot down her fist. She let it add to the fury in her voice. “Fucking kill me!”

Joss backed right off, one hand pressed against his cheek and breathing hard. How did you respond to that other than running away? He would have, too, except she was at his door.

“Why do you get to go back to normal?” Teagan demanded. “How dare you get on with your life?! You helped kill her too. You should have come with us! You shouldn’t have given up! Didn’t you love her? Didn’t you fucking love her? She needed you!” Teagan raked her fingers through her hair, grabbing two fists full. She wished she could pull her head apart to make it all stop. She wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Joss. Kenzie would have never used her body if it wasn’t for Joss. They never would have run away. She’d still be working at the music shop and busking out front and ignoring the ghosts of the world instead of this.

The ghosts were still there – she knew they were still there but most of the time the pain in her head was so constant that she could not see them. Sometimes she heard whispers and sometimes she felt a touch but her eyes never focused on the dead, any more. Maybe Kenzie had ripped that from her too.

She didn’t know. The only things she knew for sure were these: She had nothing in common with the girl she used to be.

If it wasn’t for Joss she never would have killed anybody.

Kenzie had needed him. Kenzie had needed her.

Kenzie had needed her. She was the only one with the power to keep Kenzie alive and instead she’d betrayed her, in the worst way.

Teagan lurched forward and fell to her knees, hitting the ground hard before she threw up, sending a splash of liquid and bile over Joss’s floor – Joss backed up even more, just as Leon appeared at the doorway in his pyjamas, a look on his face like he’d been bracing himself for something terrible.

“Leon,” said Joss thinly. “Leon I don’t know what to do.”

“Kill me,” Teagan’s head was swimming and she felt raked from the inside with pain and nausea – no, nausea was almost soft, billowy… this was toxic, this was poison and pain and another in the long list of reasons she wanted to die. “Please please please please just kill me.”

“I think we should call an ambulance,” Leon said sensibly. “Where’s your phone?”

Joss’s hands shook as he unplugged his phone and dialed, his eyes still on Teagan who was hunched on the floor. Leon approached her carefully, kneeling down beside her to put a comforting hand on her back but she screamed at him, wordless, furious screaming that forced him back.

The moment he gave her space, she dissolved into frantic tears. Leon backed up to stand next to Joss, who was mutely holding out the phone to him, waiting for Leon could do the talking, and make everything right.
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Darker London

October 2014

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