SURPRISE, BI T CH
yeah so that was four years between updates. my excuse is Life Happened, but it's not really that great an excuse. oh well.
rereading what's here, I realize I've learned (and unlearned) a huge amount since I first started writing it, which i think is part of what made it so hard to continue. I'll leave the story as is until it's finished (and it will be finished! I promise!), but once that's done I think I might try and rewrite most of chapters 1-12 to reduce the, uh, late-teenaged-college-student-writing-early-middle-aged-gun-for-hire...ness. yes, that's the technical term.
"There is no love without forgiveness,
and there is no forgiveness without love."
—Bryant H. McGill
CHAPTER TWELVE: A Heavy Heart to Carry.
JULY 12, 1912
The cell was empty when reality reasserted itself. In Chen Lin's place were stacks of boxes and crates, all marked with the same stamp: "Vox Sympathizers—Assets Seized". From the upper level came distant shouts and chanting, and the rattling of bars. Booker stood and listened to it, blinking stupidly, until he was sure he wouldn't pass out. He felt pretty good, all things considered: there was an indistinct ringing in his ears, and his mouth tasted like hot metal, but that was about it. He tested his face with his fingertips and found no blood. Many of his wounds were gone as well.
He glanced down at Elizabeth. "You okay?"
She nodded wordlessly, eyes closed and hands pressed to her temples. She swayed momentarily, then blinked and looked up at him, tired but—as far as he could tell—otherwise none the worse for wear.
"That was easier than I expected," she said after a moment. She heaved a deep breath and looked around. "So, this... this is another world. Another version of Columbia. I did it."
"Yeah," Booker said, directing his gaze towards the ceiling and the shouts above, "but somethin' tells me one dead gunsmith ain't the only thing that's changed."
Elizabeth rubbed at her forearms. "I suppose we had better go and see."
They climbed the stairs together, warily, wearily. The hallway itself was much the same as it had been when they'd come through before, in the other Columbia—and the notion of that was already starting to make Booker's head hurt—but all the cells were full to bursting now. Men and a few women, all dressed in hodgepodge outfits that didn't match one another but still had the vague senses of a uniform. Red and tan were the predominating colors, and there was an abundance of scarlet scarves; approximately half the company had bright red paint splashed across their arms and faces. A few reached for Booker and Elizabeth as the two of them passed, their shouts indistinct amongst the general cacophony. She edged closer to him as they prowled up the hall, and he shifted his grip uneasily against the barrel of the Hotchkiss. How much, in the grand scheme of things, had Chen Lin's survival truly meant? What had had to change in order to ensure it?
From Elizabeth's furrowed brow and the way she worried her bottom lip between her teeth, Booker could tell she was wondering the same thing.
"I'm not sure I understand how Chen Lin is alive right now," he said uneasily.
"This is a world where he was never murdered. I suppose somewhere we'll find out why."
They rounded a corner and almost collided with a fair-haired woman in a Columbian uniform. Booker jumped back, ushering Elizabeth behind him and readying his gun, but the woman didn't notice him. She swayed on her feet, her motions lurching and puppet-like, arms dangling and fingers twitching spasmodically. Color leached from her edges and blood dripped from her nose and ears. Every time her outline faded, a faint, distant wail stuttered through: she was screaming.
"Oh, God," moaned Elizabeth, clapping her hands over her mouth. "Oh—oh God."
"What's wrong with her?"
"That's one of the guards we fought. I must not have brought her through all the way. Some part of her—some part of her is still the part that you killed in the other world."
Booker swallowed down the hard knot in his throat. "Jesus Christ."
Elizabeth looked up at him and then quickly away, eyes screwed shut, visibly trembling. "You have to help her, Booker. She can't—don't let her stay like this. Please."
He swallowed again and exhaled heavily. They could not get out of this place fast enough. "Yeah," he said.
Elizabeth hurried away, hands over her ears, and pressed her forehead against the wall. Booker took the Colt Army Special from his bag, thumbed back the hammer, and shot the woman point-blank between the eyes. She fell like a stone with a quiet sigh that sounded, just barely, like relief.
The Good Time Club was occupied when they emerged from behind the flies: a half-dozen or so men in blue coats and brass helmets. They clearly weren't expecting company; one was smoking against a pillar, while three sat with their boots on a table, playing poker. They all looked up with comical expressions of shock when Booker and Elizabeth emerged, then leapt into action. The speakers overhead blared to life with a squeal: Fink, of course, in an apoplectic rage.
"What is going on here, Sansmarck?!"
One of the men, positioned towards the back of the room, broke fire long enough to stammer a response. "Sir, I—"
"As my head of security, I suspect you'll want to find out how these two slipped past your men, and what they were doing in the basement!"
"Y-yes, sir, I—" Sansmarck cut himself off and waved orders to two of his men, who dropped into cover behind one of the club's tables. Booker took the opportunity to shoot the head of security and lob embers at the others; then the fight was over as abruptly as it had began. Apparently the two of them hadn't been expected in this universe, at least in the immediate present.
"That was one of the men you fought before. The one who controlled the Patriot, I think," said Elizabeth, tugging thoughtfully at her lower lip as she bent over to look at the officer in question. Booker had no idea how she recognized him, but that was far from the most pressing of his concerns.
"He sure seemed better off than the woman downstairs."
"Maybe it's random? I certainly didn't intend to bring some people through and not others. I didn't even think about them." She chewed at a thumbnail, frowning. "I really have no idea what I'm doing, Booker."
"Hey, it's okay. Lin isn't dead, and we're all right, and that's about all I care about at this point."
"I know, but—"
"Look, if you start moralizing about this now you're never gonna stop. Take it from me. Let's get Fitzroy's order to Mr. Lin, get aboard the First Lady, an' put this place behind us, and then you can worry all you like. How's that sound?"
Elizabeth sighed and shoved a loose chunk of tangled hair behind one ear. "I think I can manage that."
They crossed through the club, encountering no further resistance. By the door, Elizabeth stopped and abruptly altered course, heading back towards one of the booths. Booker followed her curiously.
"Sorry, I thought I saw—Yes! Look at this." Elizabeth lifted the front page of a newsletter, printed on cheap semi-translucent paper, that had been resting on the table. Its header read, creatively, The Good Times; the front-page article announced, in inch-high bold lettering, "Gun-Smith Set Free!"
"Well, would you look at that."
"'All charges dropped for gunsmith Chen Lin,'" Elizabeth read aloud, holding the paper up so Booker could better read the dense print over her shoulder, "'...apprehended due to allegations of Vox Populi allegiance', et cetera, et cetera... aha! 'Lin's release was paid for in full on the tenth of July by his brother-in-law, Bishop Sansmarck', et cetera—'Sansmarck was recently promoted to security chief of Fink Industries.'"
"Guess that means I didn't get the job," Booker remarked lightly.
Elizabeth raised her eyebrows at him. "Perhaps we shouldn't have shot the man, then."
"Probably not." He winced and looked back to the prone body still lying on the glossy floor. "I, uh. I won't tell Lin if you won't."
She gave him a dirty look that nevertheless managed to contain more than a trace of humor. He grinned back at her, almost sheepishly, and she shook her head. "I cannot believe you, Mr. DeWitt."
"Yeah, yeah. Let's get out of here before Fink decides to take matters into his own hands."
They left the Good Time Club and skirted through the rapidly darkening evening, starting at every noise. What resistance they encountered was somewhat more prepared for them than the men in the club had been, which Booker took to mean that they were still being hunted here, but they nevertheless managed to make their way back to Chen Lin's shop with only a few new scrapes to show for it.
Of particular curiosity was the Handyman's corpse, which still lay spread-eagled outside the alley where he'd fought it before going through the Tear. He prodded it experimentally with the barrel of the machine gun, but it remained entirely inert.
"Guess this new world'a yours isn't so different after all."
"I think that's probably a good thing," Elizabeth said, glancing at him and biting again at her lower lip.
"Yeah, but my ribs ain't broken, and you look a helluva lot better than you did before. Something must've changed."
"Pff. You're the expert here, not me."
"'Expert,'" Elizabeth repeated dubiously. "Right." She went ahead as far as the porch, then turned back and waited for Booker to catch up. They climbed the sagging steps and entered the gun shop, closing the door behind them. Elizabeth paused on the threshold, grabbing Booker's sleeve to hold him back.
"Huh?" He listened, but the interior of the shop was deathly still.
Elizabeth looked at him as if he'd been touched in the head. "No machines. No tools."
Of course. It hadn't even occurred to him. "Maybe he shut 'em off for the night?" he suggested. Elizabeth shrugged. "Either way, we should check upstairs."
They ascended to the landing, where they found their second surprise. The orchid-strewn shrine to Gautama Buddha was no more; in its place was a miniature plaster bust of Zachary Comstock himself, backed by a slightly ratty Columbian flag.
"Yeah, I was wondering," Booker muttered, giving the altar a suspicious berth. "Sansmarck didn't sound like any Chinese name I ever heard." He ascended the last step and looked around, then swore under his breath. The shop was silent not because the machinery had been shut down, but because it was gone entirely. Darker patches on the floor indicated the places where they had rested, but the entire space was empty—except for the hunched figure of Chen Lin standing in the middle of the room, stabbing at the air with a wrench seemingly at random.
Booker approached him with Elizabeth close behind. "Uh—Mr. Lin?"
No response. The man didn't even spare him a glance. He tried again, raising his voice slightly. "'Scuse me, are you the gunsmith? Are you Chen Lin?"
Mr. Lin jerked and looked around, squinting nearsightedly at them in the gloom. Booker noticed with a sinking feeling that there were trails of dried blood around his ears and nose.
"Who are you? Speak up! I cannot hear you over my machines!"
"Uh-oh," said Elizabeth softly. "Booker—"
He shushed her with a wave of one hand and stepped closer to the other man. Loudly, as if over the machinery that Chen Lin seemed to hear, he said, "I'm Booker DeWitt! I'm a, uh, a friend of Daisy Fitz—"
"Stand back!" Lin brandished the wrench at him threateningly, and Booker shuffled backwards, raising his hands. "My machine is very dangerous! Wait downstairs with Mrs. Lin!"
"Daisy Fitzroy sent us," he tried. "We, uh, need to talk to you about getting some weapons?"
"These machines are dangerous!" Lin repeated, waving the wrench in Booker's face before stabbing it back into the nonexistent machinery. "I have no room up here for busy idiots! Do you want to lose your pretty head? Or your hands?"
"Um," Booker said, while Elizabeth hastily stifled her outburst of laughter. "Mr. Lin—"
"Downstairs!" Lin turned away with deliberate finality; Booker threw his hands up in defeat and stomped back towards the stairs.
"Didn't you notice?" Elizabeth whispered. "Lin had a bloody nose."
"Yeah. Seems to be in style. You got any idea what's wrong with him?"
She thought for a moment, frowning. "Remember him dead in that cell? And... and what happened to that woman? Perhaps some part of Mr. Lin remembers being dead too. How would you react to such a thing?"
Booker shook his head. He didn't even want to think about it. "Go crazy, I suspect."
They turned towards the landing and, in a beautiful moment of parallelism, discovered a woman standing before the shrine with her hands clasped before her. She was a stranger to Booker, pale and red-haired, face blotchy from crying.
"Heal my husband," she was pleading to Comstock's likeness. "Calm his troubled thoughts. Ease his burden. Bring Chen back to me."
"Excuse me, ma'am," Booker said, and she jumped and stared at him with watery blue eyes. "Sorry to bother you, but I'm looking for Mrs. Lin?"
The woman sniffed. "I'm Mrs. Lin."
Booker almost corrected her before he remembered the newspaper citing Sansmarck as Lin's brother-in-law. In this world, this was Mrs. Lin, and always had been. He rallied himself briefly before addressing her.
"Your, uh, your husband is a bit out of sorts. He told us to find you—"
Mrs. Lin sighed and scrubbed at her forehead with the back of one hand. "They took Chen's tools. What's he got without his tools?—If he could work again," she added, snatching at Booker's elbow with the wild conjecture of the desperate, "maybe—maybe if he could work, he'd—"
"Mrs. Lin?" Elizabeth stepped forward, half-reaching towards the other woman with one hand. "Can you tell me who took your husband's tools?"
"Goddamn police!" Mrs. Lin spat. "They took them and locked them up, in the impound in Shantytown."
Elizabeth glanced to Booker, who nodded. "We'll try and get them back for him," she said. "With any luck, it might help him heal."
Mrs. Lin sobbed again. "Thank you. Bless you, oh, thank you."
Elizabeth patted the woman's shoulder somewhat awkwardly until she turned away, bowing her head back towards the shrine. Once they were on the ground floor, out of earshot, she turned back to Booker. "Is what I told her true? Would having his tools back fix his mind?"
"How the hell should I know? Does it even matter? Crazy or not, Fitzroy ain't getting her guns if Chen Lin doesn't have his tools. Let's head to this Shantytown."
Elizabeth looked down at her feet, wrapping her arms around herself. "I'm starting to think opening this Tear wasn't such a good idea."
Booker stopped and stared at the ceiling until his spark of irritation faded back into weary acceptance. "Well, we can't go back, you said so yourself."
"No, I know, I just—I feel like I'm playing with fire. I don't know what I'm doing. What if I ruin everything?"
He put a hand on her shoulder, and she didn't flinch or pull away. She just looked up at him miserably, so he tried on a smile. "Remember what I said? Escape now, worry later. All right?"
"Yeah. All right." Elizabeth sighed, straightened, and turned to look at him again. "Let's go."
The entrance to the Finkton slums took the form of a battered service elevator on the other side of a long dockway. The sign hanging overhead had once read "Factory Worker Housing" in gaudy letters, but had been recently splashed over with blotchy red paint so that it now simply said "Shantytown."
The doors only opened partway when the lift finally made its screeching arrival; Booker had to force them open wide enough for he and Elizabeth to fit through. The lift ground painfully back to life and descended into the windowless shaft. It had no interior light of its own, so soon the two were in complete darkness.
He heard her sigh beside him. Before he could ask if she was all right, she said in a melancholy voice: "You must think me some sort of... freak. A girl who can bring dead men back to life, whose only acquaintance is a—a giant bird creature. I must seem so ridiculous."
She sounded so small and tired, so utterly miserable. Booker reached out until his hand found her arm, fighting to find something to say. The best he could come up with was, "You just got dealt a bad hand."
Her eyes glittered briefly in the dark as she turned to him. "I am not going back to that tower, no matter what."
He squeezed her shoulder, and one small hand came up to cover his. "That's never gonna happen, I promise. But Comstock's men won't stop trying until they have you, or until we are so far away that they got no choice but to give up."
"Why? What did I do to them?"
Booker thought about her powers, and the signs in her tower forbidding visitors from speaking to her. "You frightened them."
Her fingers tightened fiercely over his. "Good," she said.
It was full dark when the elevator arrived at last. Booker wrangled the doors open and they stepped out into a muddy square perhaps four paces to a side, clogged with rotting trash and human waste. A dim campfire burned in the center, and several bedraggled workers hunched around it, sharing a can of beans between them. Past this was a scattering of dismal huts, most of them little more than three walls of plyboard topped with rotting canvas or rusting sheet metal. A hand-painted sign hung in front of one such hovel: "Dotter Sick — Need Medsin. PLEASE." The woman inside was sitting on the floor, cradling a child no older than three whose ragged coughs could be heard even across the square. Booker turned away. There was nothing they could do; in all likelihood the child would be dead before the week was out.
Elizabeth stuck close to his side as they moved through the square, but no one spared them a second glance.
"These people are like this because of Fink?" she whispered. "Maybe Daisy's right. Maybe she should pay him back for all of this."
Booker was all for Daisy having her little revolution, so long as she had it once he and Elizabeth were long and far away. "Not before she pays us," he said shortly. "We're here for guns, and then our airship."
Elizabeth seemed as if she were about to argue at that, but she shut her mouth and trudged onwards, eyes fixed straight ahead. They passed through the square unhindered, turned a corner, and found themselves at a crossroads. One path led downwards, towards a group of large, sturdy brick buildings that Booker thought were likely the impound; the other wound around to a sagging bar, from which a warm light emanated faintly. Booker started down the right-hand road, but paused when he caught Elizabeth staring longingly towards the little shelter.
"We can stop, if you want."
"No, that's—we should keep moving."
He looked her over once and came to a decision. "You're dead on your feet. I dunno what they'll have in the way of food, but it'll be warm, and I think it's likely the safest place we'll be for a while."
"Are you sure?"
"Yeah. C'mon." He backtracked up the path and led the way into the bar, keeping one hand inconspicuously on the grip of the Colt. The inside was dimly lit by stuttering orange oil lamps, every surface filmed over with a thick layer of grime. Surly men hunched around mismatched tables, talking in hushed voices or simply nursing mugs of thick brown beer. A few heads craned around to see who was entering, then returned disinterestedly to their drinks or hands of cards. A dented gramophone on a stool in the corner played a ragtime melody; the bartender was polishing the wooden counter with a cloth, but seemed to be mostly just moving the dirt around.
Booker approached the man, beckoning with one hand for Elizabeth to stay close. "You got rooms?"
The bartender chewed on the end of his cigar, releasing a cloud of foul blue smoke. Elizabeth sneezed.
"Downstairs," the man grunted at great length.
Booker sighed. "How much?"
The cigar shifted again, ruminatively. "Forty eagles."
Booker knew when he was being stiffed, but he also wasn't feeling uncharitable or patient enough to haggle with the man. He rummaged through his bag and slapped the coins onto the counter. The bartender picked one up, bit it, and then swept the lot into his filthy apron before looking the two of them over with one bushy eyebrow raised.
"Pretty girl. Yer daughter?"
"No," Booker said shortly(1), and was rewarded with a knowing, yellow-toothed leer.
"I see. The room furthest back's th' quietest."
Booker scowled at the man and led the way around the bar and down the sagging stairs. The cellar had been converted into makeshift lodging, doors hung crookedly against uneven plyboard walls. It wasn't clean or attractive, or appealing in any way, but it was quiet and out of the way.
In the center of the cellar was a ramshackle common space, splintered benches and rotting armchairs arranged around an open fire pit. Evidence of the inn's other occupants were strewn around the fire—a dented guitar, half a plate of beans left to gather flies, a ragged coat thrown over the back of a moldering chair—but the room's only occupant was a young boy, no older than six, who was trying without success to reach into a barrel of apples that had been left open on top of a crate. When Booker and Elizabeth entered, the child yelped and fled, burrowing through a crack in the baseboards and disappearing under the stairs.
"What a dismal place," Elizabeth said softly. Then, more vigorously: "Daisy has to change things for these people."
"Judging from what I seen of her, she'd be the one to do it. But we can't stay to watch," Booker reiterated, before she could start up along that line of thinking again. "Neither of us can afford to get caught up in a civil revolution."
"I suppose you're right." Elizabeth crossed to the barrel of apples and pulled two out, polishing them as best she could against her filthy skirt. They were bruised and a little withered, but not rotten; Booker figured they must have been stolen, or fallen from a supply ship. She tucked one into her pocket and brought the other to the gap in the base of the stairs, but there was no sign of the boy.
"Here. I won't hurt you," she promised, pushing the apple a little ways into the crack. A grubby hand reached out, snatched it away, and vanished again. Elizabeth sighed, straightened, and threw herself down into a chair before setting to work on her own fruit. It took her all of half a minute to devour the entire thing, core and all, and then three more in quick succession. Then she stood, brushed her sticky fingers off on her skirt, and, after a minute of restless wandering, picked up the crooked guitar.
"I wish I knew how to play. Might dispel some of the gloom."
Booker glanced around, as if to make sure they wouldn't be disturbed, and took the instrument from her. She blinked at him in apparent surprise, but didn't comment.
The guitar was as in tune as it was going to get, which was to say, not very, but the quiet notes it produced sounded almost wistful in the smoky dim of the sagging basement. Elizabeth wandered a few paces between the chairs, and then began to sing: a little melody Booker didn't recognize, which had the air of a hymn to it.
"Will the circle be unbroken? By and by,
By and by?
Is a better home awaiting, in the sky?
In the sky..."
Her voice was sweet and clear and sad. Booker looked up at her, smiling softly, and then was struck still by a vivid sensation of déjà-vu. But this wasn't just a feeling—he had seen this before, in one of the visions shown to him when they were passing through the Tear. A sharp stab of pain flared behind his temples; his fingers fell from the strings of the guitar and Elizabeth broke off, looking over at him with concern.
"Booker, is something wrong?"
He set the instrument back down next to its chair, checking his face for blood but finding none. "No. Let's get some sleep and maybe everything'll seem clearer."
He led the way to the back of the cellar, through a crooked door, and into one of the makeshift rooms. It was little more than a thin mattress on the ground, covered with a few threadbare scraps of blanket, but the walls muted the sounds from the bar above and it was likely as safe a place as any they would find down here. Booker flung down his bag and slumped back against the wall, leaving the mattress for Elizabeth. She looked at him, eyebrows knitted.
"You should rest too."
He waved one hand, eyes already closing, too tired to try and read into her offer. "Cavalry, remember? You learn to sleep on horseback, you can learn to sleep anywhere."
"If you say so." There was a soft rustle as she settled on the mattress. Then, quiet. Booker was already slipping into a hazy doze when Elizabeth said his name.
He jerked back to wakefulness immediately, groping for a weapon until he realized they weren't in danger. His charge was sitting up, arms wrapped around her knees, watching him in the half-light.
"You all right?"
"I don't know," she said, quiet and tired and worn. "I'm—restless. Frightened, confused—I don't know. I want..." She trailed off, looking down at the palms of her hands. Finally she exhaled and stared up into the haze of smoke and dust that wreathed the ceiling. "I want to be free of this place, but..."
"What are we going to do, once we get out of here?"
Booker wasn't sure if there was a point she was getting to, or if she was just trying to change the subject. "We gotta figure out where Columbia is, first thing. It moves around a lot, right?"
"Yes. It mostly stays over the oceans. Its firepower is great enough that no country would dare attack if it moved overhead, but from what I've read quite a few nations have expressed their hostility in no uncertain terms."
"Well, so we figure out where we are, and then we move on from there. Hopefully we can find a place to ditch the airship, get into France on foot. We'll be too obvious a target otherwise."
"What about you?" The question was casual, but something made Booker think maybe this was what she'd been leading to. He'd have to tread carefully, lest she decide she still wanted to ditch or murder him as soon as possible.
"What d'you mean?"
"You had a life in New York, didn't you? If you don't bring me there, what will happen?"
Booker snorted. "George Samuels is a toothless old rat in comparison to the lot that's been chasing us lately. If he's smart enough find us so's to make trouble, which I doubt, I'll deal with him. Even that shithead Delaney ain't got nothing on Comstock."
"That's a relief, I suppose. But you—don't want to go back there?"
The question took him by surprise. He thought he'd made it fairly clear by now that there was nothing in that life that he wanted. "Nah. Gotta make sure you don't accidentally cause the end of the world or something, right? And I'd be stupid if I thought we wouldn't be chased. We're damn well goin' to Paris, but you oughta start getting acquainted with the idea that we might not be able to stay there all that long."
There was a long silence. Then Elizabeth nodded. She opened her mouth to speak again, but stopped and fell quiet for a minute longer. She did this twice more before Booker had to say something.
"Yes. No. Oh, I don't know!" She covered her face with her hands and spoke through them, muffled. "I feel strange."
He couldn't blame her, but what was strange for Elizabeth was a whole other world from what was strange to anyone else. "It's not some sort of hurt from takin' us through the Tear, is it?"
"No, no." She lowered her hands and Booker caught the ghost of a smile. "I just... Never mind. It's not important."
"Okay." Booker rested his head back against the wall and closed his eyes again. She wouldn't have spoken up in the first place if some part of her didn't want to say what was bothering her. Better to let her do it in her own time.
A few minutes later, this suspicion was confirmed.
"I just keep thinking," Elizabeth said, and stopped. A long moment passed.
"About?" he prompted. Her answer, mumbled into her knees, was inaudible. "If those were words, I didn't catch 'em."
"Soldiers' Field," she said, very quietly. "The—the hotel."
Abruptly he noticed that, sometime during their conversation, she had moved onto the edge of the mattress, closer to his side. He inhaled slowly and took great care to keep something stupid from coming out of his mouth(2). "Well, you're not hitting me or being frightening," he managed at length, "so I gotta say I'm not sure where this is going."
"Neither am I. Only—" She turned, too quickly, her eyes locked onto his. "Nothing I can think of makes sense except for—" She didn't finish her sentence; she just leaned over and grabbed his collar and kissed him.
Booker didn't dare move; he just sat there, wondering when the hell his life was going to start making sense again(3). Elizabeth pulled back after a moment but didn't fully retreat. He stared into her face, searching for any guile, any sort of motive, but found nothing. She held his gaze, frowning slightly, and then abruptly looked away.
"'Huh'?" he echoed. "What 'huh'? Lemme tell you, I'm the one's feelin' mighty confused right about now."
Elizabeth rocked back onto her haunches, blushing furiously and fidgeting with a rip in the hem of her sleeve. "This whole time, I didn't know what was happening. First I thought I hated you, only that wasn't right; then I thought maybe I was jealous, but that wasn't right either, and then we went through the Tear and I just kept thinking and thinking about that night at the hotel, and I thought that maybe I would understand better if... well." She tugged at the cloth absently. Booker just stared at her.
"And do you? 'Cause, Elizabeth, I sure as hell don't."
She smiled ruefully. "Sorry."
"So," she said, and turned and kissed him again.
Booker didn't waste any more time wondering. He took her gently by the waist and guided her until she was across his lap, then cupped her face in his hands and kissed her back properly, the way he'd been wanting to do since that very first night in the resort at Battleship Bay. By rights it shouldn't have been all that good a kiss; Elizabeth was as inexperienced as she was enthusiastic, and they were surely both as rank as fighting for days through this hellion city could make someone—but, pressing his forehead to hers as he broke away, Booker couldn't find it in himself to care.
Finally he said, a little raggedly, "You drive me to distraction, girl, you know that?"
She sat back a bit, somewhere above his knees, leaving him missing her touch and glad for the gloom to hide the growing discomfort in his trousers. When she spoke, he heard more than saw her smile.
"I had a notion."
"And I'm sure it brought you all sorts of amusement."
"Maybe a little." Elizabeth picked herself off his legs but didn't go far, curling on the mattress and propping herself on an elbow to look at him. In that sallow half-light, he could only make out the shadow of her outline and the faint glint of the cameo at her throat. "Booker, I—" Her voice caught, and with it, much of her levity. "Thank you. I'm still not thrilled that you lied to me, or about—her—but even so... I'm really glad you got me out of that tower."
"Yeah. Yeah, me too."
"Even though you keep getting shot?"
He smiled, not sure if she could see. "Even though." He touched her shoulder, not entirely sure what would constitute overstepping at this point, and then settled back against the wall. "Try and get some rest. Might be the last chance you get for a while."
She shuffled around a bit, pillowing herself on her arms with a sigh. Long after her breathing had evened into sleep, Booker sat awake, staring into the dark and wondering how the hell everything had gotten so complicated.
1. I'm searching for something snide to say, but nothing's coming. He's doing all the work for us, at this point.
2. This must be the first time in his life. I think I might faint.
3. It wasn't.
I've been replaying the game in order to work on this fic, and, like... i always knew Daisy Fitzroy Was Right, but, oof. i've had my share of beef with him since the beginning (ninety thousand words' worth of beef, evidently) but honestly? the day i meet k*n l*vine is the day i turn his kneecaps into cornflakes.
lock, stock, and barrel is next. ciao!