There were no survivors.
Except for us, of course. Henry checked the wreckage, but he’d hesitated too long with me, and none of the others survived the attack. I didn’t look. I may not like being around people, but I wouldn’t wish that kind of torment on even my least favourite co-workers.
He limped back to where I sat, after, without a word. His lips were pressed bloodless white, but they quirked up at the corners for my sake, a sad attempt at friendliness.
“I’m sorry,” I said, in a voice raw from screaming. It’s not something I say, but just then, that seemed irrelevant.
“Don’t be. It helped to be able to fight, at least, even if…” His eyes flicked back, but I didn’t look.
He was quiet for a long moment. His chin dipped, then firmed again as he looked up. “I take you home?”
He offered an arm. I looked at him, bleeding there. I’d caused him enough pain. I could stand on my own. I took it anyways.
“You come home,” I said, holding on.
I didn’t look at him again as we moved away from cracked earth and human remains. He was steady, for someone who’d nearly been eviscerated by a transforming monster. He made it a full block before getting heavier, leaning more on me than I did on him. By the time we reached my building, he was damp with sweat and shivering. We went up the stairs a couple at a time, resting between steps, one of his arms braced on the wall, the other pressing on my shoulder.
I liked it better, that way, being the one to carry him home. Maybe it was just that I was in control of the situation, opening the door for him, helping him into the chair by the table, bringing towels to wipe away sweat and grime. His blood ran sluggishly, the wounds less gaping that I expected, and maybe it was panic that had made them look so terrible, or maybe there was more going on with him than I’d guessed, because they seemed to have gotten smaller, less critical. He should still have gotten treated somewhere with better options than a dwindling stock of bandaids and polysporin, but when I brought up the idea he waved it away without a second thought.
“I’ll be fine,” he said, smiling a little brighter, a little less tightness pinching the skin around his eyes. “You should get cleaned up, though. Go take a shower, and I’ll help you with the bandaids after.”
I made it all the way under the water, the bathroom door pulled carefully and quietly shut behind me, before I broke down. The water ran cold before I stopped shuddering and rocking in the bottom of the tub.
I didn’t know what the worst of it was, and that scared me most of all. The spiders were bad. More than bad. My worst nightmare. Bad enough that I’d wished for death.
The cries of my coworkers, knowing they were experiencing something just as bad, or worse, and it would be the last thing they ever experienced, that was bad too.
Sending him back into it, not knowing if he’d make it out, and then watching, thinking he was going to be shredded while I looked on, helpless? Still not the worst of it.
Laying on the ground seeing his strong hand half-submerged in bloody muck, motionless, limp… That was strangely horrible, when it shouldn’t have been. Just one more corpse, one more victim, one more person I never should have gotten involved with.
But he was alive. And I was alive. And that was enough for today.
I realized too late that all my towels were out in the main room with him. I really needed to do some laundry. And also dry off. I settled for wiping myself down with a t-shirt before pulling on a fresh pair of jeans and a sweater. I wasn’t actually bleeding at that point, which was a plus.
“Feel better?” he asked as I opened the door, and froze, thinking he’d heard me choking back sobs and shuddering in the bathroom, but no, he was just congratulating me on being clean again. I shook my head, grateful I wasn’t the kind of girl who worried about what she looked like in front of guys. Had I ever not looked like a wreck in front of him?
“I’ve got to do some laundry,” I said, instead of saying other things. Thank you. I’m sorry. I wish it could have been different. I wish I could be different.
“Oh, yeah, sorry - here I’ll help-“ he said, getting up from the chair with a wince.
“Sit down,” I sounded harsher than I should have, a contributing factor in how quickly he found his seat again.
I puttered around for a couple minutes, collecting towels, sheets, anything white and washable. This was going to take serious bleach. Then I grabbed the edge of the table and started pulling.
“Mhm?” I grunted, as the table squeaked along the floor.
“What are you doing?”
Henry stared at me. “The machine’s under the table?”
“Other side,” I huffed back.
His head swivelled and he stared at the small folding door set into the wall at the end of the table. Then he sighed, ran a hand up into his hair, and clamped the other hand down on top of the table. He held it there, effectively stopping me from moving it any further. Leaning on that hand, he pushed up out of his chair, and shoved it back from the table, staring at me all the while.
“April?” He said.
“Next time, just ask.”
I let go of the table and bustled past him, arms full of laundry, without another word. He waited until the machine was happily clunking away behind the door again before moving the chair across the room to face the couch and dropping down into again. He looked at me and pointed at the couch. It wasn’t a question.
“We should talk,” he said.