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Another Way

There is another way, he'd told her, knowing full well there wasn't. Knowing to keep the desperation out of his voice and his eye and off his face, knowing that there was nothing he could say or do besides what she was asking. Knowing that she would forgive him, but he would never forgive himself.

So he didn't let himself think. He just did it. Just like she asked. Ordered. He hadn't ever taken an order from her. There was no need. They worked well together. Fit together. Perfectly, he would have said, if a lifetime of foiled idealism hadn't taught him that perfection didn't exist.

Somehow she had known this would happen. She'd told him yesterday, warned him, really, that he needed to be ready to do whatever was necessary if they were compromised. He always was, he'd told her, jarred by the reminder. And she shook her head and said Mikhail, neither of us is ready but that's just how it is. Of course she was right, and he'd known it, and selfishly he hoped that if it came to that, she would be the one holding the gun. Because he hadn't been certain, not until the moment he pulled the trigger, that he could do it. Shoot her. Murder her. Turning the gun on himself would be easy. Turning the gun on himself would be a relief.

Maybe it was only fair that he be the one to do it. After all, she'd come because he told her about the Pearl. That they had spliced some wires together and gotten the feed working and seen him. You shouldn't be alone, she'd said. Who knows how many people they'll send?

She was prescient, his Bea. Always had been. But he wanted her concern to be wrong. Baseless. She was so sure that they'd both be dead within the week, but he didn't want to listen to her.

That night, when they made love, she felt fragile, and he couldn't ever remember her seeming so before. He realized, finally, that she was crying. It was like a knife in the gut. Not once, in ten years, had he seen her shed a single tear. He stopped touching her but she kissed him hard and he tasted her tears and understood with a wrenching clarity that this was the last time they'd ever be together like this.

Staring at her lifeless body, he forced himself out of his memories of her. He concentrated on the rope binding his wrists tightly, biting into them. On the sun beating down, burning his bowed head. On the slowly bleeding cuts on his face and the darkening bruises. He knew it was a poor substitute for the cutting pain of loss that he couldn't allow himself to feel. It would be a keening backdrop to everything he did, felt, said, for God knew how long, but he wouldn't give in to it.

Instead he let his physical pain consume him. And when that subsided, he would nurture his desire for revenge upon these people.

There should have been another way.