Did I really just say that? Tell me I didn't say that. Nope. I said it. Out loud. Oh god. Rube was going to kill me.

The Rube in question just stood there, every thought and feeling he had dancing across his face. First he looked hurt. Then pissed. Then amused. Then, finally, that stupid, calm acceptance of his that always made me so mad I wanted to spit in his face.

"Is that what you think, Miss Georgia? That I should go?"

Dangerous question, that one. Because yeah, part of me kind of thought that he should. Not just because he was supposed to get his lights and got them taken away again. He'd also been a massive emo prick since he got back, and I was getting tired of it.

"An emo prick?" His eyebrows shot up. "Congratulations. I think that might actually be a new one on the insult list."

Oh shit. I said that out loud?


"Okay, my mouth needs to work out a better filter with my brain. This just isn't fair." Scowling, I walked around the sink, grabbed his hand and dragged him over to the couch. Pulling him down with a giant 'whoof', I tugged on his hand until I was sure I had his complete attention. "Thing is, you obviously don't want to be here. And you're taking it out on us, which just sucks."

"And what, exactly, do you propose I do about it? Since you seem to be just full of ideas today."

It would have been easy to think he was just being a jerk, except he wasn't. You could tell when Rube was just trying to get a rise out of you. This time…he sounded like he really wanted to know. Like he was just as lost and clueless as the rest of us were about what the hell we were supposed to be doing, and he was looking to me for answers. It was weird. And kind of wrong.

Realizing that he wasn't just jerking me around stopped whatever obnoxious thing I was about to fling at him (although it would have been a good one, I'm sure of it) and actually made me think. "You can't go back. I know you would if you could, and that's okay," I said quickly, giving his hand a squeeze. "I didn't get it at first, but this job? It makes you old. If someone asked me if I wanted to throw in my chips right now and retire, I'd be all 'Where do I sign?'

"But you can't. So we all have to make the best of it. And this, the fighting, the snapping, not talking to us…that's not you, Rube." He was staring straight ahead now, jaw set, quite deliberately not looking at me. I wasn't used to Rube ignoring me. Cussing at me, sure. He loved to do that. If he was screaming at me, I knew everything was going alright. Ignoring me…

"We missed you, you know." Slowly, his head turned. A quick little bubble of hope started bouncing around in my chest. I had to hurry and start talking before it had the chance to sneak away. "We might have fell hook, line and sinker for Cameron's bullshit, but we did it because we thought he was you. We wanted him to be you, because you're the only one who knows what's going on in this crazy, fucked-up world we live in. And when you were gone, none of it made sense anymore."

Oh shit. I was going to start bawling. Tears were stinging the back of my eyes, and I heard my voice start to wobble. I didn't want to cry in front of Rube. Not again. But then he pulled his hand out of mine and opened his arms, and I tumbled against his shirt and soaked in his aftershave and, for the first time since Cameron Kane, completely lost my shit.

Rube held on to me while I cried, and screamed, and completely soaked his shirt. I think I even socked him in the stomach a few times. He didn't even have the decency to flinch, which was damned insulting of him when you got right down to it. He just pulled me tighter, and ran his fingers through my hair, and muttered something with his lips pressed to my head that sounded an awful lot like "I'm sorry." Over and over and over again.

When I was done, and Rube had passed me a box of tissues so I didn't have to feel like the swamp master of snot, I looked up and realized he'd been crying too. Great. Good ol' fashioned sob fest around here. Not what I'd set out to do when I came over. I opened my mouth to ask him what he'd been crying about, but that wasn't what came out.

"Rube? Tell me about gravelings."