THE APPLICANT

#1

He imagined hell to look... a little less like speed dating. Fire, brimstone, all that; not Meg Manning sitting across a small table from him, absentmindedly pouring herself a coffee.

"Well, I can't exactly say you were quick," she says with a small smile. "Then again, neither was I, so it all balances out, doesn't it?" she glances down at the coffee pot in her hands. "You want one, Beaver?"

"It's Cassidy. And I'm good, thanks," he wriggles a little in his seat; this hell isn't on fire, but it's still a little humid. He's sweating, but Meg seems fine.

"I was always nice to you, you know," Meg says, playing with her hair. "Then you sent me off a cliff. It's a little sad, really."

Cassidy rolls his eyes at her. "You were apathetic, Meg. Yeah I would rather put up with you that a lot of the 09ers, but you really weren't any better than anyone else on that bus."

Meg shrugs. "I was to someone. Remember that, Beav? Veronica was my friend. She seems to have very bad luck, do you think?"

"Yeah," he says. The thoughts of the Neptune Grand, of Shelley Pomroy's party, spring back into his mind – somehow, Meg had never occurred to him during the big fight, or even while Veronica was still trying to figure it out.

Meg sighs. "I miss her. You know, when they tell you about death and heaven in church? They always say how you're meant to be happy, and accept that all your loved ones are safe – so it doesn't hurt. It's not like that. You're somewhere else, and they're not. So you miss them... and you miss them some more... and it never gets any better."

Cassidy feels a twinge guilty. "If it's any consolation, it wasn't personal."

"It was to her."


#2

Cassidy was kind of expecting him to go first; after all, he had been the ringleader in the whole "let's tell everyone about what Woody did to us, yay!" scenario. However, second isn't that bad.

"Hey Beav!" Peter says with mock enthusiasm. "How've you been? I'm sorry we haven't caught up lately, it's just I've been so busy with the you murdering me and all. These things happen."

A slight smile rises on Cassidy's lips, even as he feels nauseous. Peter was always like that; sarcastic and very pissed off. "You haven't changed at all, then."

Peter shrugs. "Well, I am dead. There's not a hell of a lot of room for personal growth; you're just sort of... there."

Cassidy pauses. He's not quite sure why he's doing this; meeting with each person on that bus. He hopes it's only the bus, and not the grand total of people he killed – a face to face interview with Woody? Not something he'd be looking forward to

Peter looks away. "You wanna hear the funny thing?" Cassidy doesn't really, but it's not like he can avoid it. "When the bus finally crashed, when you killed me? I was kind of relieved, honestly. I was fucking tired, and I was pretty scared of talking about Woody, too, you know."

Cassidy frowns. He never heard Peter like this; admitting weakness. "Then... why did you want do it? Why couldn't you let it go?"

Peter smiles sadly. "Because I knew it would be better. I didn't feel it would be better, but I was never a big fan of acting on emotion."

Both boys pause. Cassidy thinks of when he had his relief; a reason to get rid of them – getting rid of the living, breathing reminders of what had happened, of how fucked up he was. When he thought Veronica was on that bus with them? Bonus, although it didn't turn out that way in the end.

"I'm not going to forgive you, you know," Peter says, reclaiming that casual-fury tone Cassidy knew from him. In response, he chuckles.

"Well, yeah. I do remember you, after all. Mercy? Never exactly a strong point."

Peter shrugs. "Touche. Still, it wasn't something you excelled in either. I saw what you did to that Mars girl; you hurt her... pretty bad."

Cassidy's not sure if Peter's talking about the rape, the fight, or both. It doesn't matter that much, in the end. Hey, they're dead – what matters after that?


#3

When he thinks about it, Ed Doyle is technically the first person he ever killed. The man ought to feel honoured. Instead, he glares sharply, harsher than he really could remember being stared at – worse than Veronica had, even. It's quite unsettling.

Cassidy speaks first, for once. "Hey. So, what message do you have to impart?"

"You hurt my daughter," Ed mutters. A chill runs down Cassidy's spine. He had seen Jessie Doyle after everything; grief mixed with the necessary attitude to survive the way she was being treated. It was a bad thing for her, but he hadn't cared an enormous amount.

"I guess I did. Killed her dad, caused a few weeks of hideous isolation and bullying," he admits, flippant. "On the long list of things I did, however, that last bit seems... a little low on the list."

"It isn't to me," Ed explains. "Yes, you killed me. But, at heart, she matters more."

Cassidy swallows. He had avoided thinking about loving, feeling families; it was okay to accept being a mass murderer on an abstract level, but the thought of the people left behind to grieve were... upsetting. But now, Ed forces him to see something else; parental love so strong it was more important than his own murder. Cassidy's mind wanders to the rest of the Casablancases; would they finally give a shit about him now? Did he want them too?

"She only matters more to you, Ed," he tells the man. "I have a lot of pissed off people to deal with; most of them concerned with their own murders."

"Well, yes. They're teenagers, not parents. They don't have to think about this. I do, and I'm the one you're talking to."

Cassidy sighs. "Meg was. And she didn't bring it up."

"That's because she was friends with Veronica, who you seem... slightly obsessed with."

Obsessed. That's a new one.


#4

Cervando was wearing the bleached jeans from before, which made sense in Cassidy's head. That incident was the only real time he interacted with Cervando, minus the crash – after that, he hadn't really wanted to deal with Cervando again. Thanks, Dick

"You know," Cervando starts with a smirk. "For slamming you against a wall, making you pay for wrecking a pair of jeans that you didn't wreck? This seems... kind of like overkill," he shrugs.

"Don't, man. You know it wasn't about you," he explains.

"Yeah. Kind of came out of nowhere – I always half expected to die in some gang fight, like you'd expect from a PCHer. But no. Some pansy-ass white boy takes me out, not even gunning for me. It's a bit disappointing, really."

Cassidy raises an eyebrow. "So, you not pissed I killed you; you're pissed I killed you while killing other people? Jesus, you take your ego too seriously."

Cervando sounds taken aback. "Hey! This is coming from the guy who sent a bus full of his classmates off a cliff to protect his pride; in that light I come out pretty well."

Cassidy remembers again, something he had never liked to do. It was always easier to separate the what from why; to work Woody out of what he did; he he sold his soul. He feels wounded again. "Yeah. I'm hardly expecting you to feel sorry for me, don't worry."

Cervando smiles sadly. "I don't know, man. You're just as dead as I am now, and seriously? You got screwed over."

"Okay, let me rephrase. I don't want you to feel sorry for me."

"Well, you murdered me in cold blood. So I have the right to ignore what you want."


#5

She has a silly name. Dick made fun of it on the day you killed her, and that was all you really knew about her before you killed her – she was a journalism teacher and she had a silly name.

You found out more later; about Terrence Cook and the fact she was, after all, quite insane. That didn't exactly cultivate much guilt.

"Hello, Miss," he says across the desk to her. He's not all that sure what there is to say between them, but they'll find something, he's sure.

"Hello, Cassidy," she says politely. She sounds like a new teacher; as Peter had said, there wasn't much room for growth in the afterlife – would she always just be the new teacher to him?

"Do you feel guilty, about killing me, Cassidy?" she asks calmly. He blinks.

"Well, that was a slight out of the blue question. Slightly. Out of the mauve, maybe."

"Which you didn't answer," she reminds him, and he looks away. He doesn't want to think about it in terms of guilt – guilt, after all doesn't do anything. Ms Dumass shrugs and continues.

"You probably shouldn't. Given who I was, why I was even there, I kind of had it coming."

Cassidy furrows his brow. "Okay, I heard – you weren't that bad."

She laughs. "Sure I was. Remember Terrence? I blackmailed him into staying with me, you know. I fucked him again and again and again, knowing he didn't want to be there. That sound familiar to you, boy?"

He swallows. He hadn't thought of that; that a woman he killed could be the villain of another story. "Well. Yay me, then."

"Yay."


#6

He remembers her. Dick had never bothered introducing her or anything crazy like that; given how Dick was asshole incarnate. She had introduced herself later; she seemed nice enough. He hadn't had that much thought for her when it finally came to the crash, however.

The looks sad when he enters; sad and tired. She wins his sympathy, somehow. "Hey Betina."

"Hi Beav," she responds. "I'll admit – didn't see this one coming."

He shrugs. "No-one really did. I liked it that way; I mean – you know why I did this, right?"

She nods. "I know. I think you're completely insane for it, but I know," she says. He can't breathe again, which makes sense, given he has just committed suicide. But that's not quite what he meant.

"If you were hoping for this? Dick never missed you. It wasn't like, he suddenly realized how much you meant once you were gone. He just...kept on being him."

"I didn't really expect anything else," Betina responded. "Dick is just Dick; no hidden affection for me."

There is a stillness between them; uncomfortable and real. She is this one to talk again; "I was trying to get pregnant, you know."

Cassidy quickly felt even more uncomfortable. "I... didn't actually know that. Although I was pretty confused as to why you would still be fucking him."

Betina shakes her head. "It didn't work, so I guess that is that. Let's leave Dick with just the you-trauma, shall we?"

Cassidy thinks – Dick? Trauma? Really? There was a twinge of guilt with the affection he managed to hold, for his older brother. He tried to shake it away, but Betina had more to stay.

"Would it have mattered, Cassidy?" she asks, and he is confused. She smiles and leans forward. "Okay, say I got pregnant. And I knew, and Dick knew, and he, for whatever reason, was okay with it. But I was still on that bus when you had your choice."

He swallows deeply. She continues. "Would it have mattered? Would I have mattered, Dick have mattered? I don't know, would your future niece or nephew have stopped you?"

He took a deep breath, and for whatever reason, felt on the brink of tears. "Probably not."

She nodded. "Okay, at this point? I kind of expected that answer."

"If it's any consolation? I wish it would have mattered."

"I don't know if it is or not," she pauses. "He's going to miss you, you know."

There is suddenly a sharp pain in chest; oh, fuck Dick. Fuck the fact Cassidy still gives two shits about him.


#7

Marcos is listening to an iPod, a small smile playing on his face. Cassidy looks at him, and he seems more relaxed then Peter was – he usually was; even when he was ripping the shit out of the entire school on his radio show (Cassidy had figured out in a split second that it was him), he wasn't the intense stream of pure bitter Peter was.

"Hey, psycho," Marcos greets him calmly. "Okay, this is kind of an awkward reunion."

"Just a touch. But I've been doing this a while; I'm kind of going through everyone on the bus. So I'm getting used to the 'I killed you' awkwardness."

Marcos nods. "Well, good for you then," he says. "You're not going to be forgiven, Beav."

"Peter already told me that."

"Sounds like him," Marcos responds. "I asked Woody why, you know."

Cassidy went still at that.

"When we were on the field trip. I went and asked him why he did those things to us. And you want to know what he said?"

Cassidy feels uncomfortable. "More morbid curiosity I kind of detest. But yeah, I do."

There is an ironic glint in Marcos's eye. "Exactly what he used to. That he was helping us; saving us. Odd feeling it didn't work."

"Maybe he actually believes it."

"Maybe," Marcos pauses. "I could just ask you, now. You know – Veronica?"

He sighed deeply. "You feel betrayed about that, don't you? That I'm, well, one of them?"

"A little. Did she make it easier, Cassidy? Was it easier to kill us all, knowing you had already bought your ticket to hell?"

"I guess."

Marcos pauses. "And... was it easier, just killing us? Not dealing with what had happened, finally admitting what that son of a bitch had made of you, had made you do?" he asks. Cassidy looks away.

"Can I not answer that? I really tried to avoid analyzing what I did; it was just... annoying."

"You really didn't feel guilty, did you Beav?"

Cassidy shrugs. "Sometimes. I buried that as much as I could – after all, it wasn't like guilt was going to do anything."

"You didn't answer me about the Veronica thing, you know?"

Cassidy hesitates and feels his unnecessary stomach turn. "Why?" Marcos nods. "I don't really know. It was a power thing, I guess – getting back what he took from me."

Marcos tilts the screen of his iPod toward Cassidy. The song title reads: I Am God.


#8

He doesn't actually know her name; he's pretty sure he learned it at some point – probably right after the crash – but at some point he forgot it again. She is glaring at him and smoking a cigarette.

"Hey, Cassidy," she 'welcomes', letting his name carry bite.

"Hey, uh..." he can't be bothered to be embarrassed he can't remember. It's not like they ever knew each other beyond the crash, so it's not really a problem.

"It's Rhonda," she replies, and he nods.

"Well, I uh, don't really have anything to say to you."

"I know," she says, taking a drag of her cigarette. "It's not like I was important, right?"

He coughs on the smoke; he's never been able to stand cigarettes. She goes on; "I'm sure it's a real comfort, for like, my family and shit – my killer didn't even know my name. I'm sure that would have been a nice touch when they were paying for my funeral, when my best friend was contacting psychics because she felt so fucking guilty?"

He winces.

"You probably should know my name, I mean, I saw Michelle put us those posters for us all over school – she just missed me so bad, you know?" Rhonda continues, standing up. "Yeah, she loved me, and she was my best friend and I loved her and now I missed her like all fuck! And I had a mother and a father and a sister, I had a stupid fucking dead end job and bad grades and those things that would have been important if I'd made it passed seventeen!"

She's screaming and pacing now; he feels trapped, stifled. She's justifiably furious:

"You did this! You did this and you didn't care, but they did! They missed me, payed for my funeral, made yearbook spreads! I fucking mattered, Cassidy! I mattered to everyone except you!"

She extinguishes her cigarette on his face, and it burns. He bites his lip and represses the scream – what right does he have to that?

The object falls to the ground, and he looks up at her still furious face. "I'm sorry," he mutters.

Suddenly, she is calm. "Finally," she says with an easy smile, walking back to her seat. "That only took what, almost a year?"