The weather was turning overcast and cloudy by the time Gavin emerged onto the roof. He had been awoken by a solitary ray of sunlight peeking through the moth-eaten curtains of his apartment, and now it looked as if it would be the last such ray to grace the island for quite some time. Under the leaden sky the town had a distinctly sullen and decrepit air, the wind making a forlorn whistling sound as it sped through empty streets devoid of people. It was a depressing view if ever there was one.
Fortunately, Gavin was not in any kind of chemical state to entertain thoughts of depression. The pleasant buzz of intoxication still pervaded his brain, making him see everything almost literally through rose-tinted glasses. He hummed happily to himself as he stepped out onto the rooftop, yawning extravagantly and grinning amiably at nothing in particular. In one hand he carried an opened tin can, the lips battered inwards to form a crude seal around a short length of rope which protruded from it like a fuse waiting to be lit. In fact it was a fuse, and the tin can contained a small quantity of the blasting powder Gavin had spent most of the morning pounding out of the sulphur, charcoal and potassium nitrate supplies he had managed to scrounge up during the past two days. The can held only a fraction of what he had produced, nothing more than the scrapings that had been left over from the main batch. Gavin had done what he could with the tools he had at hand, now it was time to do a test run.
Of course, he wasn't actually in any rush. He could take his time; admire the view and so on. Gavin was in the kind of mood where he would consider it the most egregious bad taste to spend insufficient time appreciating the world around him before trying to blow it up. Nothing seemed serious at the moment; there was no urgency or rush to do or accomplish anything. Until the announcements came, Gavin's world was completely free of obligation or want. The only thing that soured his mood even slightly was the omnipresent itch of the collar around his neck, the rim irritating the stubble that grew low on his chin and giving him the constant urge to scratch. But not even that petty annoyance could detract from the overall sensation of wellbeing that moderate intoxication had wrought within him.
Staring out across the town, Gavin felt the sudden heart-lifting urge to burst into song. There was something about the sheer, almost grandiose decrepitude of the scene stretching out before him that made him want to enliven it with a hearty tune or soulful ballad. He would never have contemplated such a thing had his brain not still been liberally soused with alcohol, but now the urge was almost irresistible. There was no need to rush after all; the grenade in his hand would explode in exactly the same fashion five minutes from now as it would at any other time of day.
Grinning to himself, Gavin leant back against the side of the roof access building and let himself drink in the view while he thought. Now that he realised the desire to sing, he had to figure out what to sing. The trouble was that his source material was limited; there weren't very many heavy metal songs which translated well to the solo setting. The smattering of classics that Gavin could accurately recall didn't fit the scenery either. He wanted something slow-paced and contemplative, preferably with a hint of optimism and awe. He shut his eyes tight, trying to list and categorise the various songs whose lyrics he knew off by heart. The lingering effects of the whiskey didn't help matters, but Gavin preserved as best he could. It was something to pass the time, and that was what counted most of all.
Megan looked at herself in her apartment's dirty bathroom mirror, running her fingers through her hair. It was already getting so greasy by now, but not like there's much she could do about it. What she wouldn't do for a nice, hot shower right about now. Oh well.
She unzipped the toiletry bag and pulled out her hairbrush and vigorously worked it across her hair to get the knots out, so much that a few strands of hair fell over the collar and on the Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep
shirt and the cargo shorts she had changed into. She had intended to wear it only for the sake of wearing a Kingdom Hearts
shirt in Disneyland, but now she was glad she brought it. Hopefully it would feel better than running around in the hot summer heat in a hoodie and jeans.
After that struggle, Megan grabbed the black hair tie from her bag and made a loose ponytail around the center of the back of her head. There we go. Now she wouldn't have to worry about her hair getting in her way when she killed someone else.
...Maybe it wasn't a good time to joke about that.
She took one last look in the mirror, turning her head to both sides to get a good view of her exhausted face, and with a sigh, grabbed the bag and her hat and threw them on the couch with the toolkit from yesterday. She left the apartment, leaving the door slightly ajar.
Megan opened the roof access door and he
wasn't there, thank God. She closed the door behind her with a strong push and walked over to the edge facing the beach.
The sudden harsh sound of the roof access door opening and closing mere inches away caused Gavin to very nearly jump out of his skin. He had just gotten an appropriate set of lyrics together in his head and been on the verge of starting to sing when the interruption occurred. The interruption was intensely irritating, and he twisted to peer around the edge of the access building to see who had just intruded into his domain.
It was Megan Emerson, standing at the edge of the roof and looking for all the world as if she was about to let herself pitch forward into the nothingness below.
For a few seconds Gavin just stared blankly, his train of thought uselessly spinning its wheels in a siding. Ohgodohgodohgodohgodoh-
he thought in an endless alcohol-accelerated mental loop. This was it, it was all over, everything he had worked for and cared for, it was all for noth-
Wait a moment you idiot, she's not that close to the edge!
Gavin blinked. His depth perception had been sufficiently distorted by the whiskey that it had first appeared as if Megan had been poised right at the very edge of the building. Now he saw that she was in fact standing about a meter or so back, not in any danger at all. The realisation made him feel rather stupid, but in contrast to his usual reactions, this merely made him want to giggle again. Everything had an edge of humour when viewed through the neck of a bottle.
Of course, now he had to figure out what to do next. The sober (or at least slightly less pickled) part of his brain wondered why Megan had decided to come up to the roof, but the thought didn't make much of an impression on him. In the end he decided that there was no reason not to bid her greetings.
Still clutching the improvised grenade in one hand, he stepped out around the side of the roof access building and stood by the door. It was a little awkward to address Megan behind her back, but that just made it seem funnier.
"Hi there!" He said in the kind of incessantly chipper voice that would've made Navi become his willing love-slave in an instant. "What're you doing all the way up here in the clouds?"
From the rooftop's view, Megan could make out a couple of people moving around on the beach not enough to make them out individually, but it had to be at least three or four of them. Looked like Karen delivered, but where was she? Wasn't she supposed to meet with Gavin this morning? Or was that part made up by Gavin, too, and they were supposed to meet at the beach?
Before she got a chance to think about it, someone called out behind her. Megan turned around, and... shit, where did Gavin come from? Was he just waiting to ambush her up here?
Megan folded her arms and stayed right where she was. "...What're you-" Her words stopped when she saw the suspicious can he was clutching onto. She unfolded her arms as she took a step back. "...That's not a... is it?"
Gavin had to think quite hard to understand what Megan was getting at. Then he looked out towards the seaside and light slowly dawned on him.
"Oooh... you mean this?" He held up the tin can. "It's an improvised grenade. Or a signalling device. Or something like that. What matters is that it goes bang, which is important for a variety of reasons!"
He paused, then blinked. He wasn't making much sense here. He started over.
"I spent the morning making explosives. This here is a test-thingy, just the scrapings and a fuse. I was gonna light it and chuck it off the edge of the building to see if I got the mixture right. It's complicated, you see. Only so much I can do with measuring jugs and so on. It should be a pretty good signal to the guys on the beach, too."
"It's... it's not gonna be big, is it?" Megan's words wavered. The last thing they fucking needed was to blow this place up and alert everyone in a five-mile radius.
"Naah," Gavin said confidently, suddenly back in his element. "This is black powder; it's a low explosive, propagating via hot gasses instead of a supersonic shock wave like high explosives. There's only enough of it in this tin to cause a very loud bang and a lot of nasty shrapnel fragments. The fuse is about four seconds, too."
Megan shook her head and threw up her hands. "So...what, you're just going to give us away that easily? What if, like, someone's in that building there?" she pointed her index finger at one of the other apartment buildings.
"Or do you just not care about drawing attention to yourself like with those cars yesterday?"
Gavin thought for a moment. Megan made a good point, and in a less inebriated state he might've listened to her. As things stood now, he just grinned and shrugged his shoulders.
"Let em come," he said amiably. "Between you and me, I'm confident we can face anything the island cares to throw at us. Personally, I'd like to see who's down on the beach. The nade will attract their attention and we can wave to them from there. Only other option is to fire in the air, and I don't want to waste bullets like that."
Megan scoffed and shook her head. "I'm sure the eight- no, probably, I dunno, fourteen people who've died by now thought the same thing. 'Oh, I'll be okay. There's one-hundred-and-fifty people out here murdering each other, but I'll make it! I'll find my friends, make a shitty escape plan, and everything will be right as rain!' Do you honestly think you're just untouchable like that?" She felt her voice crescendo into a forte.
"Shit, Gavin, you're more of a fool than I thought."
as Megan's words struck home. His amenable feelings were suddenly gone, replaced instead by a rush of irrational anger that burned through him like white-hot fire. He felt a sudden egotistical urge to laugh, to preen, to admit that when all was said and done he was untouchable, that none of the clueless lemmings
running around the island posed any threat to him at all. Not even the terrorists were a threat; they were merely an obstacle, and when they fell the entire world would know that he, Gavin Hunter,
had been the one to outwit them.
He would be revered as a saviour, a light born from the darkness.
It would be glorious!
Time seemed to slow as he stared at Megan, his fist clenched and lips itching to open wide and spill forth the writhing mass of bile and vitriol that was gnawing away at the lining of his stomach like acid. But something stopped him; some tiny vestige of sanity still clung on through the twin intoxicating forces of rage and alcohol.
You aren't like this, said a tiny voice in his head. This isn't what you stand for. This is just the alcohol talking. It's alright, I understand, you let the pressure get to you. But this isn't the time to give in to such things.
Gavin thought dismally, I don't know how...
Remember your humility, replied the voice. It's not just your life and reputation at stake; everyone around you is as well. You didn't decide to try and escape for your own personal glory, but because it was the right thing to do, the noble thing to do, the thing other people wouldn't or couldn't do. You let yourself slip, but you can pull yourself back from the brink. Just because there's precious little hope to be found here doesn't mean there isn't any.
"You're right," he said quietly though in response to the voice or to Megan he didn't quite know. "I am being a fool. A damned, bloody, stupid, headstrong fool, and I'm sorry..."
The anger was gone as quickly as it had appeared, replaced by a mixture of melancholy and the beginnings of a headache. Questions spun through his head, one of the biggest ones being something along the lines of what the hell just happened?!'.
It was all too much for his poor alcohol-soused brain to cope with. Gavin felt his knees tremble, and then suddenly he was slumped down on them, no longer looking at Megan but just staring vacantly down at the ground. He felt horribly drained and tired.
"I... uh..." Gavin collapsing to his knees totally threw off Megan's train of thought, and she could only groan and look down at the ground not at Gavin, but at her dirty green shoes. If this was his way of getting her to feel bad like he was some puppy that just got scolded, it was undeniably working. Maybe she needed to take a step back, too... but, then again, why should she feel sorry for someone who only seems to care about his own ambitions?
She rubbed her arm back and forth, unsure of where to go from there.
Gavin looked up at Megan again. There was so much he wanted to tell her; to say to her. Not just to her, but to everyone in the group. Except he couldn't, not without jeopardising everything he was working towards. There might not be any cameras on the rooftop, but the collars were still perfectly capable of transmitting his words straight to the terrorists. That couldn't be allowed to happen, but neither could Gavin simply remain silent any longer. He gritted his teeth and tried to organise his frazzled thought process into something coherent.
"I'm not afraid to die," He said when he finally trusted himself to speak. "I've never been afraid to die. What I'm afraid of is losing you, of losing anybody on this wretched island that doesn't have to die. That's why I'm working so hard to try and protect you all. It's a goal, an ambition, one that I can hold onto against the nightmares this place causes."
As he spoke, Gavin slowly lifted his head to make eye-contact with Megan. It wasn't something he often did, due to the influences of his autism, but now he wanted the gesture to lend weight to his next words.
"I've let you see more of myself than anyone else." He said quietly. "You know what I'm capable of, what I could do if I put my mind to it. Don't think it isn't tempting to abuse the power I hold at times. But that would be wrong; it would violate the fundamental principles around which I've built my entire life. Maybe this island will end up breaking those principles, but not before I expend every effort to help keep those I care about alive. I'm not a killer, but I will gladly die to protect you from harm."
His voice was hoarse and rasping by the time he finished the speech. Normally he would never have been so impassioned, but the alcohol had weakened his grip on his emotions, letting them flow freely in ways he would normally never have countenanced.
"...I...I wouldn't say that, about 'losing anyone that didn't have to die'," Megan spoke in a calm tone after listening to Gavin pour his heart out. "No one should have to die, not like this, or like the kids before us. No one deserves that. But I know what you mean, or at least I think I do."
Her feet moved on their own, shuffling left-and-right over to Gavin who was staring her down intently. If he was forcing himself to do it or not, though, was a good question...but she couldn't know. He at least deserved the benefit of the doubt. "I don't want to lose you, either, Gavin. Or Sophie, or Alex, or Grace, for that matter. Or Bella, wherever she is.
You don't have to worry about me, though. I'm a big girl; I can take care of myself. I can beat 'Through the Fire and the Flames' on Expert...though that was just one time, but whatever."
Now she was right in front of Gavin, about two feet away. "Listen, I'm sorry about how I've been acting since last night, but we need to talk about where we are. Where we
are. I think there's been some miscommunication, so we need to settle this. But, we can do that later."
She smiled and extended her hand out to him. "Come on, let's get you up."
Gavin reached up and took Megan's hand as she offered it. The gesture was simple enough, but the contact between them still sent a strange, indescribable rush through him. Like many people who suffered from Asperger's syndrome, Gavin was an extremely tactile person, and his relative inexperience with human contact only served to further intensify the sensation. He took a deep breath, and then slowly pulled himself to his feet with Megan's help. "Thank you."
He wasn't entirely sure what he was thanking her for, but it didn't seem to matter anymore. A little bit of his composure was coming back by now, and he let out a long sigh as his feet took his full weight again. He groaned, then managed to return Megan's smile with one of his own.
"That was so much harder than I anticipated." He finally managed to say. "You must think me awfully melodramatic."
Megan's smile reset into a neutral position as she shook her head. "Uh-uh. I think it's great that you're showing emotion, or at least more than..." Being creepy? Being a massive flirt? "...Uh...nevermind. But I really do wish you'd show this side of you to other people besides me. I know it's ...uh... 'hard' for you, but people like being able to read others, ya know? So, yeah, not melodramatic at all."
Well...maybe it was; a little bit, at least. But, this was good. Seeing Gavin with feelings always felt good, even if it was drunk feelings...which he probably was right now, if he drank anyway despite Megan's refusal to join him. Whatever. That just meant it was uninhibited. Maybe she should've taken note of this for the future.
Her eyes fell out of lock with Gavin's. "If anyone's being melodramatic, it's me. I just..." she sighed, unknowingly throwing herself into a rant "...I don't know how I'm supposed to feel. Like, I know I'm supposed to feel terrible about Francis, and I do. I didn't have to push him down those stairs, and because of that I'm going to have to live knowing he fell because I wouldn't listen to him.
"I know I'm supposed to feel guilty that I ran out of the school like a pussy, just leaving Bella and Juhan and Takeshi with a corpse because I didn't have the courage to stay there. And of course I do; I'm a terrible friend. But maybe that's just me, since apparently everyone I talked to at Aurora is either dead or wandering around shooting everything that moves.
"And, of course, I'm glad you found me when you did. 'Nuff said, but... I feel like I don't deserve it. I really don't. People are getting killed off left-and-right, and a killer gets rewarded because luck has a sick taste of humor. It's not fair, Gavin. I didn't even think about finding you, not before helping Bella find Garrett. And now, because of me, she's probably lost on the other side of the island because I didn't have the balls to face her.
"I'm such a fuckup," Megan rubbed her face with her hands, bringing her rant to an abrupt stop.
Gavin listened passively to Megan's rant, hearing in it the exact same things he imagined had been said hundreds of times before in this twisted game. It pained him to see such a loss of innocence, but it no longer made him sad. Instead, he just felt pity. Not for Megan, at least not her alone, but for everyone on the island.
"You're right," he said bluntly. "You did fuck up, and pretty impressively at that. But you wouldn't be human if you didn't make mistakes."
He paused for a moment, giving Megan just enough time to absorb his words before he plunged recklessly onwards. If she wanted to see his emotions, that was what she would get.
"What you did was stupid and terrible, but at the end of the day it was an accident. You need to move past that just like I need to move past the fact that as much as I'd like to, I'm not always quite the perfect model of control and efficiency that I enjoy believing myself to be. If you want to cry, then cry, if you need to hit someone, then hit me!
But whatever you end up doing, get your grief and your misery out
of your system now,
because I don't need a Megan Emerson plagued with insecurities. What I need is a Megan Emerson who can stand up for herself and tell me when and how I've managed to fuck up, as by goodness
, I don't need to fuck up anymore than I have done already!"
Gavin was breathing heavily by the time he finished. There was something exhilarating about raising his voice for a change. It felt good. Though that might've just been the alcohol.
Another sigh left Megan as she shifted her feet in place. Maybe he was right, for once. She messed up big, but what could she do about it? She can't just hop into a DeLorean and go back in time, and she was getting sick of herself crying about it. Heck, Francis is probably bitching about her bitching up in Heaven now; "Damn, girl; just fuckin' get your shit together already," or something like that.
Fuck the past; keep on looking ahead. Yeah, that sounded nice.
"Okay," she nodded her head in reassurance, "I'll do that. But, you have to promise me something, first."
Gavin tried not to show his surprise at Megan's sudden change of attitude. Somewhere in the back of his head a voice went; holy shit, did you seriously just pull that off?!
"O-of course..." He said in a slightly bemused tone. "Anything you like, just name it."
"It's nothing big." ...Well, "nothing big" for Megan; it just might kill Gavin. "Just try not to be so ...what's the word, 'off-putting' to people here. Like, I know you think it's hard because you have 'social things', but I have 'social things' too, if that isn't obvious by now. But, like, don't be afraid that showing emotions would ruin how people see you. In fact, I'm sure you can get any girl you wanted if you showed that smile of yours more often, ya know?"
She smirked and lightly punched Gavin in the shoulder. "C'mon, what do you say? Show me that British smile that brings nightmares to dentists everywhere."
"Nightmares? I'll have you know that my smile in the very envy of the dentistry profession!"
Megan's infectious humour did its work; Gavin grinned. He couldn't help it. He looked away, embarrassed, and then felt himself starting to laugh. It was impossible to keep it suppressed, so he didn't bother. Suddenly all his worries seemed very far away, paling into insignificance when compared to the relief that was coursing through him.
Watching Gavin being so embarrassed caused Megan to break down and join in the laughter with him. "Yeah, just like that's perfect. Even the guys will want Gavin Hunter when they see that."
She allowed herself some time to calm down before returning into a default half-smile expression. "So... what do we do now?"
Gavin lifted the grenade he had somehow had the presence of mind to hold onto throughout this encounter into the air between them. "We try this out. After all, what better to compliment our emotional fireworks than some actual fireworks?"
"Mmmmmm.... okay, fine, you win. You sure it's safe for you to light that thing, though? Did you drink much since last night?"
"Uhm..." Gavin thought about lying, but decided against it. "About half a bottle. But I only started AFTER I had done everything I needed to do!"
Megan narrowed her eyes and raised an eyebrow. "You sure
you're together enough to set that off? Here," she reached out with her hand, "let me try; just tell me what I need to do."
"Sure. Hey, you should do the honours anyway." Gavin handed the grenade to Megan, then took out a lighter from his breast pocket and offered it to her as well. "I'm sure you can figure things out from here. Just be careful not to burn your hand when lighting the fuse, I made them from a mixture of black powder dust and whiskey, so there's no putting it out once it's lit."
Megan accepted the homebrew bomb and the lighter, holding each in separate hands. She turned the battered tin can around, biting her bottom lip all the while. Would this thing actually fire, just like that?
"Man, I'm sorry, but this thing looks so ghetto," she commented to herself. "Anyway, what do I do? Just light it and throw it? Do I need to count to 3 or anything like that?"
"It's just a test. I haven't even begun making the proper stuff yet." Gavin said in a reflexively defensive tone to Megan's perceived criticism. "But yeah, just light it and throw it. But don't ever
try and cook it off' or anything like that. It's not worth the risk."
...Wait, what? "Cook it off?" The hell was Gavin talking about? Ugh, whatever. This sounded simple enough. Maybe not idiot-proof, but it was simple enough for her.
Megan popped open the top on the Zippo lighter and gave it a few flicks before a sufficient flame sparked. "Here goes nothing."
She took a few deep breaths and started a countdown in her head.
You can do this.
You totally got this.
Here we go.
Megan lit the fuse and launched the can without hesitation, watching it as it flew over the building before gravity arced it down over the side of the building that faced the beach. Megan quickly shifted back a couple of steps and braced herself.
The grenade's fuse burned fiercely as it fell, eating its way down into the neck of the tin can and catching light to the densely-packed powder charge contained within. Fifty feet from the ground, the grenade exploded with a loud crack,
followed by a series of high-pitched pings
as fragments of aluminium shrapnel travelling at hundreds of miles an hour struck off the exterior walls of nearby buildings or the road surface below.
Back at the top of the apartment building, Gavin cautiously advanced to the edge and looked over at the results of his work.
"Welp, I guess that proves we're in business." He said with a small grin.
Megan joined Gavin at the edge of the building, looking over the results of the bomb. "Shiiiiit, dude," were the only words she could say out of awe. The can actually exploded, just like that.
"Uhm...here's your lighter back," she held the lighter to him while keeping her eyes concentrated over the remnants of the explosion.
"Hah!" Gavin chuckled as he accepted his lighter back. "The real stuff is going to be far more powerful than that little tin. I just made that up with the scrapings to make sure the mixture was right."
"...Even bigger?" Megan let out a nervous chuckle. Christ on a bike, where did he learn about making bombs from?
Gavin nodded. "Yeah, but it's not the explosive that you have to worry about, it's the shrapnel that comes with it. That's what makes it dangerous. Anyway, you think we might want to head downstairs and see if anybody is mad enough to come see what caused that?"
Megan nodded her head in agreement. She turned to go to roof access door before she stopped in place and jolted her head up. "Oh! Did you notice if the announcements came on yet?"
Gavin paused, then shook his head slowly. "Uh, no, actually. I think we were a bit too far up for the speakers. Plus I was kind of in a world of my own until you popped in."
"Hmm. Good point," she replied with satisfaction. "Lead the way," she gave a sweeping motion with her hands and let Gavin take the lead.
As he began to descend the stairs, Gavin felt a wave of tiredness washing over him. It wasn't serious, but it did serve to remind him that when all was said and done, he still needed another few hours rest before the influence of alcohol was completely gone from his system. It was annoying, but he was sure Megan would understand.
Of course, resting right away wasn't an option. First he had to greet anybody coming in from the beach or other areas and deal with them, then he had to detail what the group was going to do next. All in all, it was a very long list, and Gavin was glad that the day was still young.