Welcome to the Junk Drawer!

This will be where I post a host of odds and ends and other tidbits. I'll try to include context for each piece if there is any. Some of these may turn into stories later on, but for now, they are just here to be enjoyed as is.


RENEGADES

Prompt: Fic Lab (#Swifty)

Date: 2021


My jagged fingernail scrapes the tiny cut of glass outside your door, and I see you look up at me. The glass is red, salvaged from some sort of traffic light or something, and it casts you in a dangerous glow.

We stare at each other as I wait for you to let me in.

I'm always waiting for you to let me in.

You drop your gaze to your lap, and it feels like a submission, because you know I won't leave. I push open the door, careful not to move it too quickly because I remember that it's not installed all that well.

The door slumps against the makeshift wall, and cautiously, I lean against the edge of it. You are fiddling with a radio in your lap, and that's where your eyes stay fixed.

"How are things coming along?" I ask. It's a redundant question. We both know the fragments in your lap are unsalvageable, and if by some miracle, you figure it out, it won't do us any good.

You let out a long breath. "What do you want?"

I step into your room, even though there is no space for me. It's filled with odd ends; wires, bolts, random scraps of metal. There is a bucket of knobs near you, next to the thin blanket you call a bed.

"We need to talk," I say, crouching down and sitting on a bucket filled with what looks like salvaged nails and screws.

Your eyes flicker up to mine before landing back on the radio. "About what?" You pick up a rusted screwdriver, using it to pry the old chunks of the radio apart. You are setting about a useless task, and we both know it.

"We're running low on food again," I tell you, my eyes fixed on your face. Only the quickest flicker of your facial muscles tells me you've heard me. "We have mouths to feed. We can't just wing it anymore."

I see your shoulders tense. It wasn't your idea to take in the kids, I know that, but how could we not? Emmett might be fourteen, but he's stronger than most adults I've known, and tiny little Alice. Alice is only nine and she adores you. She picked you out, make no mistake about it. We might still be basically children ourselves, but we are needed.

"Contact the twins," you suggest, grunting as you fiddle with the radio. "They'll help us out."

I stare at you. "No one has seen the twins in days," I tell you. You would know this if you ever left this fucking room.

Your eyes flicker up to mine again. "I can't leave this."

My jaw pops as my teeth grind together.

How am I supposed to help us, help you, when you don't let me in?

It's been like this for weeks now. Ever since we managed to escape that Northern Faction. I don't know what they did to you, you won't tell me about it, but it burns me up whenever I look at you. I know it must be bad, and the fear of not knowing specifics builds it up in my head, nearly paralyzing me.

I move, placing a hand over the radio in your lap. You look up at me in surprise. "Stop," I command. "Just stop."

Your hand is rough with callouses, and my fingers squeeze yours, longing for more. I always want more with you, but you can't give it to me. I want to tell you how I need you, how I want you. I want you to let me love you, but you can't. Perhaps before we were taken, but now...

"We need each other," I say instead.

Your eyes begin to glisten and you look away from me. I can feel the heaviness of your shame, of your fear. You believe yourself broken, just like the things you spend your time trying to fix. You hold your brokenness in front of you, shielding yourself from everyone. You did that before too, but back then I'd found at least a tiny way in. Now, I'm in the dark.

"I can't do this without you," I whisper. Your eyes flicker to mine, and I know right now, we're both thinking the same thing. Maybe if the world hadn't collapsed, maybe if it hadn't been burned up and mangled. Maybe if empires hadn't folded in on themselves and disease hadn't wiped out critical levels of the population. Maybe if we could have found each other sooner. Maybe if that faction hadn't done whatever they'd done to you. Maybe…

"In another life, perhaps you would have been able to save me."

Your voice is hollow, and it pulls at a deep ache in me.

"There is no other life," I tell you. "There is only now, and right now, we need to survive."

You look at me again, and I have no choice, I have to do this. Around us the world is burning up; the carnage and wreckage of humanity sending toxic waste into the air and water and land. We have survived an apocalypse, and the wickedness of humanity that surfaces in the wake of that sort of damage, and I'll be damned if I let you give up now. "We are all that each other has left in this world," I say, squeezing your fingers. "And even though I know it hurts you to hear it as much as it hurts me to say it, I love you. Do you hear me? I love you. I love every single damaged part of you, and I'm not going to give up. Not until that black sky comes down and swallows me whole."

My hands move to grab your face, and you stare at me, eyes wide, unmoving, barely even breathing.

Nothing in this world is in our favor. The earth is destroyed, and the few people who have survived have formed vicious factions. We belong to no one, and the price of our freedom is death if we are found. Or worse.

We may be renegades, but we need each other.

You open your mouth, your chapped lips spreading as you begin to form your response to my ridiculous declaration when Emmett's loud voice reaches us.

"We have to go!" he shouts, appearing in your doorway. Tiny Alice is behind him, her bag on her shoulders, her eyes wide with fear. I stand from your bed, dropping your precious face from my palms. You move as well, grabbing your emergency bag. Emmett hands me mine, and together we flee the hideout we'd managed to carve from the debris of felled buildings. I pick up Alice as we run, and sling her over my back, making sure she can hold on tight as we run headlong into pitch-black tunnels. Before our light goes out, I feel your hand find mine in the near dark, and I look at you, your eyes scared-not of the people hunting us-but of what is forming between us. Of what I've started with my confession.

I squeeze your hand in response.

We aren't the first renegades to need someone. We might be in danger for the rest of our lives, but we'll be in danger together.