Not This Way
A/N: I love Annihilation. I love Tessa Thompson. I love Gina Rodriguez. I love Josie/Anya. I really need to read this book. I hope you enjoy the story.
(If you somehow found this story in the blackhole that is 'Misc' stories and it looks familiar, it's because it's been on Archive of Our Own for a while, but I thought there was no harm in putting it on both fanfiction sites.)
Anya Thorensen. She was one of the few people Josie had made friends with immediately and from then on considered her a close friend. Someone she would entrust her life to, to have her back. She was enthralled by the paramedic's outgoing personality, watching her bring Lena into the group for introductions and camaraderie.
Anya was largely what Josie wished she could be. Anya was powerful, outspoken, watchful. Josie had her weaknesses, and Anya had her strengths. As long as they were together, they could get through anything.
Josie was unsure about the trek from the beginning, but Anya reassured her that even though they were going into the unknown Shimmer, she would be there for her. They could turn back if Josie wanted to and Anya would support her.
Josie knew that her friend had a strong need to prove herself, prove that women could do the job just as well as the men had, and come out alive at the end. Anya had told Josie about her experiences with harassment, in college or wherever she stood out. She could have returned to the classically feminine ways - hairstyle, delicate personality - but it wasn't her, and she swore she would never be what she wasn't. She was a fucking doctor, or that's what she would tell whoever decided to mess with her. She didn't need a man. She didn't want a man. In fact, Josie was all she needed.
But getting through the Shimmer's wall was just the beginning. Josie could tell from the start that Anya was different. Her temperament was shorter; she was less friendly, less overtly affectionate.
The crocodile incident brought out the Anya she remembered, even only for a moment. Anya jumping into the murky water to help Josie, not thinking twice about what else could have been submerged in the cold, dark water. Anya comforting Josie in the grass, helping her catch her breath, reassuring her that she was okay. Anya placing herself in front of Josie, gun at the ready, aimed at the mutated reptile's head. Even when her clip was empty, she still kept herself between the animal and her friend.
That was the Anya she knew. That was the Anya she trusted with her life.
She so longed for her to stay.
Soon after, a new, suspicious, aggressive Anya started to rear her ugly head.
It was the night when Cass was taken by—something. Something big enough to take their friend in one bite and carry her away into the night. Josie had no reason to believe that Lena would lie, but she couldn't lie to Anya. She had not seen the bear that Lena claimed to have seen, and so that is what she told Anya.
She saw a flash of emotion in Anya's eyes. Helplessness, displeasure, anger. All three and more. Josie wished she could have reassured Anya this time, to say that Cass was still alive and that Lena was telling the truth, but she knew neither of those things, and so the words never left her mouth.
She woke up in the middle of the night to Anya pacing, and she could have sworn she was muttering to herself.
"Anya?" Josie whispered, catching the woman's attention. The paramedic stopped in her place, but in the moonlight's glow, her face was still focused on something only in her mind. "Are you okay? Do you hear something?"
Anya took a deep breath and turned to Josie. She wasn't smiling.
"What is it?"
Anya stood there another second, looking down at the physicist. Her eyes flashed anger, mellowed to a sadness, and widened with fright. Josie's brows furrowed. Why was her best friend concerned? Sure, this wasn't the best situation to be in, but they weren't under attack. They weren't dying. They were here, together.
Anya walked slowly, hesitatingly, towards Josie and crouched down between their sleeping bags. She laid a hand on Josie's rifle, running her index finger along the cold metal of the muzzle.
"Get up," she said. It was quiet, a sort of meek suggestion.
Josie didn't understand. "What- Anya's what's-"
"Get up and sit in that chair," Anya repeated, stronger now, though her voice cracked.
"Please." Then Anya picked up the rifle. Her eyes met Josie's, and though she kept the firearm aimed at the ground, Josie knew what the action suggested. She didn't know what to think. Would Anya really shoot her? Had the Shimmer affected her mind so much that she was driven to mistrust, anger, sorrow, towards someone she had earlier entrusted with her life? She had chosen to go on this journey, and she wouldn't have left the compound with someone she didn't know and trust. Was this all a reaction to losing Cass?
Josie, of course, knew what it was like to lose someone and feel like the world was ending. She had the scars to fucking prove it. But Anya had given her the courage to let those scars free, show them to the world, and hold power over them. If there was anyone who could help Anya through these strange new feelings, it was Josie.
She didn't get a chance to talk with her, however, because the butt of the rifle hit her squarely on her temple.
When she woke up, she was sitting in a chair, her wrists tied to the wooden arms and her ankles tied to the legs. She was gagged with what felt like layers of gauze - the gauze they'd been traveling with and relied on if they were injured. She pulled at her binds, testing the strength and mobility, but they were firm.
The last thing she remembered was Anya standing over her, threatening her with her own rifle.
God, what had Anya done?
Groggily, Josie looked up and surveyed the room. It was the old living room on the first floor of the house in which they had set up camp. The room was dark but she could see dust and dirt that had settled there over a number of years of absence. To her left were two more chairs, and she could only assume that they were meant for Lena and Ventress. As for why, Josie had no idea.
Behind her, Josie heard scuffs on the wood floor, coming down the stairs, bumps of boots on each step. She turned her head and saw Anya in the near darkness, pulling a bound Ventress down the stairs. She almost looked as if she were trying to do it gently, though a few bumps on the head didn't elicit any empathic response from her either.
Josie watched as her changed friend - or was she changed yet? - dragged their psychologist into the living room and tied her to the chair furthest from her own.
Josie made some distressed noise through her gag and Anya's attention turned to her.
"I'm sorry, Josie," she said, her voice breaking again, though with more sorrow than before. She finished tying the knots around Ventress's ankles and leaned her against the back of the chair, her arms immobile behind her back.
"I'm sorry, I really am," said Anya, avoiding Josie's desperate eye contact. "But I need to know why, and I don't want you to get hurt. This needs to happen." She finished reinforcing Ventress's wrist binds and stood up.
Anya took a deep breath again, shaking her head to herself, and then turned and went back upstairs.
Josie shouted a couple times behind her gag, but gave up quickly when it didn't elicit any reaction from Anya. She didn't understand. She wanted to, desperately, but Anya wasn't giving her the chance. She looked at Ventress. She was still unconscious, some of her blonde hair stuck messily in her gag while some laid against her cheek, blocking her eyes.
"Mnntrss?" murmured Josie through her gag, hoping to rouse her boss back to the world of constant vigilance, but no luck.
Josie became scared then. She was no longer just confused, trying to reach Anya and figure out what was happening. She could see that Anya had lost her better judgment and that she was willing to tie up and harm her cohorts - she thought they were all friends by now, all pursuing a common goal - to prove something to herself. To prove that she wasn't crazy.
She heard quiet scuffles above her. Some muffled voices, and then a blunt hit. Anya must have gotten to Lena, Josie concluded. She hoped that Lena wasn't hurt too badly, though with the way that Anya had recently been acting, she wasn't sure of her friend's newfound capabilities.
Josie watched as Anya dragged Lena down the stairs, this time not caring if her body thumped on the way down, and tie her to the middle seat - the center of the room. Josie realized that it was Lena who Anya had the issue with. But she didn't understand why. Lena had done nothing that made her deserve this treatment.
Josie stared at Anya as she sat on the floor in front of them, leaning her back against the wall. She looked exhausted, agitated, concerned, and panicked. Josie didn't know which to try to comfort first, so she tried making eye contact with Anya and communicating that way, but Anya avoided it. It was almost as if she were ashamed.
Ventress woke up after twelve minutes, and Lena roused awake twenty-one minutes after that.
And then Anya started speaking. She claimed that the man in the video, the one carving open his team member's stomach to expose moving insides, was Lena's husband, which Lena did not deny. A silver locket hung from Anya's fist.
Josie didn't know, for god's sake, she didn't know.
Anya claimed that Lena couldn't be trusted. That she lied even about Cass being eaten by a bear. Josie didn't believe that. She couldn't believe that Lena would lie about the welfare of their friend and teammate. They weren't enemies. They needed each other to make it out of here alive, and every single one of them knew that. Yet there they were, fighting for their lives against one other.
When Anya started talking about her fingerprints changing, her insides feeling alien, Josie's heart broke for her. She would never cut open her friend like the man – Lena's husband – had done in the video. She wouldn't hurt Anya like that. She wouldn't hurt Anya, period. She strained at her binds again, pleading silently with Anya to let them go so that they could get help.
Josie was ready to turn back, and she wanted Anya to go with her. She should have listened to her when she had the chance.
The skeletal, screaming bear, using Cass's screeches at death's door to lure out more food for itself. The creature had evolved into something naturally sinister, perfect for humans and sympathetic animals, calling them to their loved ones, just to be torn apart for chasing something they couldn't live without.
Josie had looked at Anya's body once, during the struggle, and she never looked again, but the image was burned into her memory. She would never forget the horror, but she would do absolutely anything to get rid of it. She thought she could handle it after losing her mother, the person she was closest to, but she had underestimated the impact that Anya had in her life, and her chest was the heaviest it had ever been.
Anya had died, suffering. Even the bear had died suffering, a victim of the Shimmer. Through death, they had both left behind the pain of the material world and moved on to whatever paradise they went to.
Josie was lucky, very lucky, to have vines and twigs sprouting from her skin. It was peaceful. Unsettling, for sure, but peaceful. At times, she even thought it was beautiful. They were growing swiftly, and so Josie had a choice to make. She could resist nature's progression and fight the changing DNA, or she could give in to nature and hopefully, hopefully, evolve into the flowery statues like the ones posed outside of the house. Struggle or give in. Fight or submit.
She knew what Anya would have wanted her to do – kick and scratch and claw at the alien DNA because it was your fucking body and nothing was going to take that from her. But Josie was done fighting. She knew she couldn't fight nature, the everchanging organism surrounding the entire earth. If she was going out, she was going out her way, and she chose the least painful way.
Her heart was broken, and she knew that when she became one with the beautiful human statues, she and Anya would have entered and died within the same giant organism. Moreover, they would have died together.
She said goodbye to Lena. She was proud of her accomplishments in life, that she had made it further than most missions into this extraordinary environment, but she knew she wouldn't make it out as the same person who had signed up for the mission in the first place.
She was done, and she was happy.
Anya Thorensen, here I come.