(Waaaiiii! Last chapter…gasp…please r+r! By the way, I ought to mention there's some religious stuff in this chapter. This is in no way meant to imply that other people's beliefs aren't valid, or anything like that. I'm sorry if it annoys you, but I've tried to write this chapter three times and putting what I did at least made it work and helped the story move forward. Anyway, so don't rant, and please r+r!)
Lots of screaming.
Cube dropped down next to Coin. "Get up, damn you, you're not dead, you idiot, you crazy punk, get up…"
She started to sob. "Call an ambulance! Come on, move it!"
Gum stared at Beat. His arm had gone red.
"I don't think it's going to stop," he said.
"Oh, my god…"
That was Piranha.
Blood in the kitchen. Gum swallowed. The sounds were lengthening in her ears, roaring, distorted, mingling with Mew's voice, speaking words she couldn't pick out.
"Gum, what's happened?"
Tab. Gum gripped his shoulder, wondering if she was going to faint.
The ambulance screeched to a halt outside, sending a flickering blue light over the kitchen, turning it into a stage scene.
Gum hardly noticed as the two guys were helped into the ambulance. The world was fading, the colours running together, the voices forming a swarm of sound that surrounded her and dragged her down.
As she keeled over, she was only conscious of Tab holding her up.
When she opened her eyes, she was upstairs again.
What happened? Something had gone on during the night…
Beat. And Coin.
Gum sat bolt upright and winced at the dizziness that spread through her skull.
"Careful," Tab said. "You'll hurt yourself."
"I'm fine. What happened to Beat and Coin?"
"Beat's okay. Everyone was a little worried for a moment but he's pulled through."
Tab shook his head.
Gum walked downstairs. Everyone else was out. Gum was glad of that. She felt shaken – drowned – by the events of last night.
No. Not everyone was out.
Cube was kneeling in the centre of the room, hands neatly placed on her lap, her shoulders shaking.
Gum could just make out what she was saying. She wanted to step back, but if she did the other girl would know she was there, and that would be cruel. So she stayed still.
"Okay." Cube drew a deep breath. "Dear God. If you exist, which I very much doubt, because if you did, and you let all the shit that's happened happen, then I don't see how people can worship you. Anyway.
"Um. I bet you won't listen, because it's not like I ever did this before, and from what I hear you don't like people who only start calling on you when bad stuff happens. But I can't not try.
"It's Coin, I guess. I mean, I know he killed Mew. He tried to kill Tab, and me, and Gum. But then he saved me. And now he's dead."
Gum heard her voice shake a little. She didn't want to hear this. But she couldn't move now.
"Well, I always thought I was an atheist. But now – now he's dead I don't want him to just be nothing. Though I know that's what's really happened, of course. But it's just if, if there was some sort of afterlife thing, he could get some of it? I mean, something nice? He didn't mean to do what he did. I mean, I guess he did, but…oh, screw this! Just be nice to him, okay?" She snapped that. "Don't make him suffer. He saved me. He saved my life and then he was killed or he killed himself, I don't know…
"Not that you'd be too happy about me being saved. No one else is, I bet. And I don't see why you'd be any different. You only like the Bible-bashers, and I sure ain't one of those. Just don't hurt him any more. He's been hurt too much."
She got to her feet.
"And don't hurt Mew, either, please…I don't think you will, though, will you? Or will you? I mean, she never hurt anyone."
Oh, didn't she? Gum thought. But the anger was only a slight twinge, like a sore joint. The rage and misery she'd felt at Beat and Mew had faded. "Well, that's all now. I'd better go."
She dusted off her clothes, picked up her spray paint. Gum tried not to move.
"Oh, and – and they say you should be sorry and all about all the things you've done. Well, I'm sorry about what I did to Gum. Nothing else, just that. Oh, and about calling Combo – what I called him. So there."
"I should apologise to the dude as well." Combo's voice rang out from the direction of the kitchen. "But I'm even less of a believer than you are."
"So you're talking to me now," Cube said tonelessly. "Please don't start breaking my bones just yet, it's too early."
"I read your note. I saw what it said."
"Your point being?"
"You were gonna top yourself just cos I wasn't talking to you?" Sadness stirred in his voice.
"Not just that. Don't flatter yourself."
"I didn't want to make you do that."
"You hated me."
"It ain't worth hating someone if you're gonna drive 'em to do that. I shouldn't have tried to blab to the others. Garam and Piranha forgave ya."
Cube shrugged. "Do you?"
"Course I do, you prat."
She smiled. A small, painful smile, but a smile nevertheless.
Gum saw Combo cross towards Cube. "Now, you coming out or not?"
"Who said I wasn't?" She hefted her spray paint.
"Then let's get moving."
As they crossed to the door, he hugged her roughly across the shoulders. She shoved him off, but Gum could see joy bright in her face. Then the door cut off the view.
Gum scowled. She knew she should be happy that those two had made it up. But she wasn't. Maybe Cube had stopped hating Coin – they were, had been, friends anyway – but she herself certainly hadn't.
She touched her ribs, remembering how she'd pictured the hate lapping at them inside her. It hadn't gone. If anything, it had got worse.
She was sick of this house. She hurried down the rest of the stairs and out into the open air.
Not raining at the moment. Well, that was something to be grateful for.
She turned right, and walked round the corner of the house to the small garden where Mew had been buried.
Beat and Slate were both there, and she drew back, then scowled. Why should they keep her out like this?
She coughed, deliberately, and stepped forward. Both guys turned to look at her. She braced herself, but Slate just shrugged, and Beat gave her a nervous smile.
"Hey," she said. "Sorry to interrupt you if you're busy or something."
"Nah. I was just leaving." Slate made his way out of the garden. As he passed her, he said, almost too quiet to hear, "I'm sorry, okay? I'll make it up to you sometime."
"Thanks," she said, surprised, but he'd already gone.
She turned back to face Beat.
"Well…" He stared at his skates, which were damp with dew. "I guess it's all okay again."
"It's not." Gum came towards him. "I'm sorry. About her. About you and her."
"You don't have to be. I was a jerk to you."
She shrugged. "Well, big deal. You suffered for it all right. Sure, it hurts you dumped me. But I have someone else now. You seem to have lost out."
Beat stared down at the dug earth where Mew lay. He didn't speak.
Gum hugged him, and she felt the misery inside him for a moment. The hug made it obvious that they weren't together any more. It was like hugging a brother.
They moved apart at last, and Beat said, "I'm going inside."
He'd reached the edge of the garden when he looked back and said, "Thanks."
And then he was gone.
Gum stood there, looking down at the grave.
"Hey, Mew?" she whispered. "I'm sorry I hit you."
It was very quiet here. The cars – all the sounds of the city – were nothing but a low murmur. She breathed in the scents of damp earth, of grass, of faded petrol. Around her the sky was huge and grey-white. A brand new day.
She glanced up at the roofs around them. A rudie could jump on those, grind, make shapes against the everlasting sky. And the walls could use some colour.
The GGs would be leaving. But maybe this place wouldn't be totally barren. Ghosts had their interests just like anyone else, didn't they?
She thought that she heard Mew laugh. "Cool!"
Or maybe she'd just not been getting enough sleep lately.
She dropped her glance to the ground. She hated Coin. He didn't deserve peace…
…but he'd suffered as much as she had, hadn't he? Those scars. And he'd chosen to. He'd done it to save them all.
"Oh, all right!" she snapped. "Maybe I don't like you. But you can have a nice afterlife or whatever."
"Who can have a nice afterlife?"
Gum turned. Botan stood at the edge of the garden.
She shrugged. "Coin."
"That's kind of you."
"Hey, Botan?" She walked over to him. "Thanks. Thanks for everything."
"I didn't do jack. You're the one who was pig-headed enough to stick with it."
"Yeah, right. So, anyway, thanks for putting me up, and –"
"Zip it. I'm cool. You okay now?"
"I guess so. People are speaking to me again. And – and I don't hate them. Mew. Or Coin. Or any of them."
"You'll be fine. You've got Tab, and all. And you're tough."
"That's the one thing I don't want to be."
"You're not still worried about Nara, are you?"
"Worried? Guilty, more like. Ever since it happened. And this hasn't helped."
"Should do. It proved you don't always use violence."
"You didn't kill Mew. Coin did. And no matter what anyone says, that's the truth."
That's true, Gum thought. For the first time some of the shameful weight on her shoulders subsided. "You're getting back to the Riders, then?"
"Yeah." Botan grinned. "All this playing detective wasted my time. I have work to do."
"I'll see you around, then."
"You bet. Bye, Gen."
She watched him walk away, then took one last glance round the garden. The clouds were parting. It was going to be a sunny day at last.
And suddenly she was happy. She leapt, punched the air, shouted at the top of her lungs, "Jet Set Radioooooooo!" and then she headed in to find Tab. No point in wasting the good weather.
(It's over…I wrote a murder mystery! Yayayayay! Sorry. Okay, thanks to everyone who r+red, I really appreciate it. Thanks to Disk for helping me out with the orange. Thanks to Nik for trying to help me work out who the killer was. I love you all!)