It was mid-afternoon before Trent got back to Margo's apartment. Sore, tired, and dirty, he pushed open the door and yelled to Margo. "I'm home!" It wasn't until he came out of the bathroom that he realized sickly that she never yelled back. "Margo?" He padded down the hallway, to the bedroom, and the queasy feeling exploded in his stomach.
The tiny room felt huge and empty without her clothes, her shoes, her pillows. All that was left of his darling Margo was a note on his pillow. Trent stared at it numbly as he unbuttoned his shirt and stripped off his pants. He couldn't bring himself to read it yet. He already knew what it said, and he didn't want it to be true. After a long, steaming shower, he went back to the kitchen and ate mechanically. His appetite had left with Margo's suitcases.
Carlos found him in his bedroom some time later, still staring at the note on his bed.
"What happened?" he asked.
Trent cleared his throat and waved a hand toward the paper. "Her things were gone when I got back," he said hoarsely. "I don't know where she went."
"You haven't read it yet?"
"I can't." Carlos picked it up and handed it to his long-time friend, who refused it. "I can't, Carlos. I just can't."
Dejectedly, Carlos opened it and read it aloud. "'Trent: I know you won't understand this, but I need to leave. Not just for me, but for you, and for my career. I was offered a job in Washington DC, and I took it. I think it's the best thing for both of us right now. Let Carlos be a good friend to you. I love you. Margo.' I'm sorry, mano," he said as he folded the paper up again and handed it to Trent. This time he took it, reading it carefully.
"What am I going to do?" he asked, bleary-eyed.
"You're going to go on doing the best you can," Carlos answered. He crossed his arms. "She's going through a rough time right now. Give her some time to heal, some time to think, and things will get better."
"Some time to heal from what?" Trent asked hysterically.
"From the Reformists," he answered quietly.
Trent stood up from his chair in a huff. "Why does she need to go away for that? I can help her get through it!"
"No you can't," Carlos replied softly. Margo's departure made perfect sense to him, but Trent argued the point. "You can't fix everything!" Carlos finally yelled, and Trent fell silent. The anger faded out of Carlos' voice. "It's not about you, it's about her. She needs to find herself again, and she has to do it alone. You can't help her this time."
Trent's earnest blue eyes became dangerously sad. "Well I'm glad you know more about my girlfriend than I do."
Carlos sighed and tried to explain. "We were talking about it the other day."
"You knew she was going to leave me?"
"I didn't know this was going to happen," Carlos retorted angrily. "But it might be for the best."
"Get out." Trent's voice was flat and eerily calm.
"I understand that you're upset…" Carlos started to say, but Trent shoved him.
"How could you possibly understand what I'm feeling?" It was Carlos' turn to look hurt. "Get out."
Sometime after midnight, there was a knock on Danae Launey's apartment door. A quick glance through the peephole found Carlos laden with a package. Both he and his bundle were wet from walking through the rain.
"I couldn't sleep," he admitted sheepishly as he dripped on her welcome mat. She told him to stay put, and he watched her carefully as she went to get him towels. He was more nervous than he had ever been in his life. "Nightmares," he told her when she got back. Her surprised eyes locked with his for a brief moment. "Here," he held out the cardboard box for her, and she took it while he dried off. "It's a present from my mom. A housewarming gift."
Danae set it down on the table in the next room and opened it. "Oh, my God," she breathed as it mewed. Carlos grinned and sat down on the floor next to her as she pulled the tiny cat out of its makeshift carrier. The scrawny tabby purred as she held him up to the light. "Does it have a name?"
"Not yet," he said as she put it down on the floor. It blinked its eyes and jumped on the couch.
"Thank you." She suddenly leaned over and hugged Carlos tightly. He returned the embrace just as fiercely. His nightmares were the furthest thing from his mind when she asked him about them. He told her, haltingly at first, a bare skeleton of the dreams, about Johnny, and then his fears tumbled out of his mouth piecemeal. When he had run out of things to say, her arms were still around him, though he lay with his head in her lap now. He thought she had fallen asleep until she spoke at last.
"There are many theories about dreams and what they mean, but I don't think they mean anything. Johnny almost killed you, but you survived. You were stronger than him then, and you're stronger than him now. The nightmares can't hurt you."
"You make it sound so easy," he sighed as he shifted. He felt exposed and vulnerable now that echoes of his feeble fears wafted about the room.
"Look into your friends' eyes," she told him simply. "They'll tell you who you really are. Your mother adores you, Trent wouldn't be the same without you, Tommy idolizes you," she explained. She looked down her long nose at him, and his somber brown face slowly broke into an easy grin. "What?" she asked him. It was her turn to feel silly.
Carlos shook his head. "Nothing," he told her. "I just like how your eyes see me is all."
With an indignant mew, the fiery tabby jumped onto the man's belly and stared at him. Soul searching would have to be postponed until after Kitty had been fed.