Okay, I've gotten Poe's permission to post this. It may as well come out now. This is how we spent New Year's Eve.
[We're sitting on the couch, watching some TV (more looking at it than watching it, actually--I don't even remember what was on). Not really saying anything. We've got beer. Not much. Neither of us are particularly big drinkers, but you guys know that already. This is a bit of a special occasion, though. After all, the last time we were drinking together, we were trying to forget shitty things, too.]
Messenger: So...another year gone, huh?
M: [chuckling slightly] Kyle would always say...well, he always insisted on emphasizing the new year instead of the old. Fresh beginnings and all that. But I guess we don't really have much to look forward to, do we?
P: [shrugs] I guess there's really not much behind us, either.
M: Yeah. Might be almost tolerable if there were something worth it in the present, though. But it's a shitty present, too. [pause] So...yeah. [pause] Goodbye, 2011.
[we sit in silence for a bit, taking an occasional sip on occasion]
M: So, um...listen, Poe...look, I know you don't want to talk about this, but...this thing with Screwtape....
P: [looking down] It's nothing.
M: Poe, those bruises...they're not nothing. Look, I'm really sorry I saw that. I never meant to walk in on you like that. But I did see them, and I know they got there somehow.
P: You really shouldn't worry about it, Messi.
M: Well it's a little fucking late for that now, isn't it, now that we're in a sort of Mexican standoff with Screwtape over this whole thing.
P: Well, perhaps if you'd just forget about it....
M: [deep breath] Look, Poe...you're the only friend I really have right now. And this is...this is something I can't just forget about. It's only hurting you more to ignore this.
P: Not everyone has it as easy as you, Messi. This isn't the worst thing that could happen to me.
M: Yeah, but...look, Poe, that's not the point! You don't deserve this.
P: That's not the point either.
M: What is the point, then?
P: That some things are what they are.
M: They are what they are, huh? I don't even know what they are, because you won't fucking tell me. What's he doing to you, Poe?
P: Nothing huge. Just a smack or two. When we can't find someone. A belt if I make a mistake.
M: ...the fuck? Nothing huge? You're just...Poe, that's abuse! That's illegal!
P: Messi, what do you expect me to do? He says that he believes the only reason I'm...allowed to have thoughts of my own is because, um, You Know Who doesn't know about me yet.
M: [I stumble over my words a few times] And you just...go along with that?
P: If I don't, he'll find some way to let him know. I'm not going back to that, Messi. I can't.
M: What, and Screwtape's absolutely right about this? You know for sure that this crazy theory of his is right? Poe, you know that he thinks that The Boss is picking us as some sort of "chosen" to remake the world in his image after he "purges" it, right?
P: How do you know he's wrong? What if he's not?
M: So...you can't risk it. You won't risk...going back to Eddie. [she nods] Look, Poe, it's not that I don't understand that, it's just that...I can't let him do this to you.
P: I can't go back there, Messi.
M: You...you won't. We'll find another way. Some other way to get him to stop.
P: [I could swear the corners of her mouth tug up for a split second] Thank you.
M: So this is why you haven't been updating your blog or posting around, isn't it?
P: Yeah...yeah it is.
M: He punishes you for that, too? [she nods. silence] So...does Eternity know about this?
P: I don't know. Apart from that Thanksgiving, I've never seen him. Probably.
M: And does, um...does any of this have to do with that, um...that thing with Donovan?
P: I don't know. Probably.
M: Does Screwtape know about that? [she nods] How did he find out?
P: He's smarter than you give him credit for. You have to be good at reading subtle things like that to be a Tracker.
M: Is it...just the beatings, then? I mean, he...doesn't do anything else, does he?
P: What do you mean?
M: Never mind. It's...never mind.
P: No. Please. Messi, what do you mean?
M: Well, it's just...there are, you know...forms of abuse other than physical. And other forms of physical abuse.
P: Are...are you asking what I think you're asking?
M: Um...yes? And no. Probably. But I'm asking about more than just that, too.
P: [she covers her mouth, stifling a laugh] No, Messi. Nothing...nothing worth mentioning.
M: Okay...okay, good. Sorry. Um...that's good. [pause] So...do you have any ideas on how we can, you know...stop this? [she shakes her head] Well...tell you what. We'll figure something out. New Year's resolution, right there, huh? How's that sound? [extending my bottle]
P: [extending her bottle to tap it against mine, allowing herself a smile] Sounds like a plan.
[we drink, then fall silent for a while, watching the TV again]
M: Poe? Can I ask you a question?
P: I...I guess?
M: Why did you, you know..."let Donovan go," as you put it?
P: I...I don't really know. I just...I liked him. I didn't want to see him die.
M: Even though you knew that if Screwtape found out, he'd...?
M: He...he used to mean a lot to you, didn't he?
[there's a pause before she nods]
M: ...He still does, doesn't he?
P: [a long pause] I...I don't know.
[there's another long silence]
M: ...Do I?
[understandably, another long silence]
[I don't really remember how exactly I reacted, but there's another pause. I think I probably drank some more. Or maybe a lot more.]
M: I'm sorry I haven't been there for you recently. That I've been so withdrawn lately.
P: I...it's okay.
M: No, it's not. I was stupid and should have picked up on clues I didn't. I ran my mouth without thinking. I feel like this is all partially my fault. Like I could have stopped it if I had just, you know, been there for you more.
P: You couldn't have.
M: Well yeah, but, but I mean, maybe I would have figured it out sooner, and...I'm sorry.
P: It's okay, Messi.
M: [trying to smile] I guess...I guess I just don't want to lose you. You, uh...you mean a lot to me. I worry about you. I mean, I've lost Hyde and Caper and...I don't think I could stand losing you. I think it'd be harder.
P: I...uh...thank you.
[She pauses, then leans forward and wraps her arms around me, pressing her cheek against my chest. I'm caught off guard, but slip my arms out of her embrace after a second and put them around her. And then we just...sit like that for a bit.]
M: Hey, Poe?
M: ...What time is it?
M: They're probably pretty antsy over in Time Square, huh? I, um...look, I'm sorry if I've said anything that's upset you.
P: I...no. No, Messi, you didn't say anything to upset me.
M: Good, good. I'm...heh. I'm not really too good with people.
P: That's okay. I am. It isn't any fun.
M: Uh, Poe?
[A pause. I lean forward and, uh...our lips meet for a few seconds. She smiles again. That real smile that I see so rarely.]
P: Um...h-happy new year, Messi.
M: Yeah. Happy new year. ...You know, I think that's the second time I've seen you smile like that. [she blushes] It's a shame you've been drunk both times.
P: I'm not drunk!
M: You've been drinking, though. You're at least a little tipsy.
P: I'm...[blushes slightly, then kisses me again] Well, I'm at least a little sleepy, I guess.
M: That...I'm going to assume that was the alcohol speaking there.
P: [laughs] It's okay.
M: I bet you're not even going to remember this in the morning.
P: I will too!
M: [I look at her] It's...almost strange seeing you like this. You know, so happy. It's like you're an entirely different person. Is...is this what you were like as Annabel?
P: [her face falls a bit and she looks down] I...I don't know. I don't really remember.
M: ...Right, I'm, uh, I'm sorry for bringing that up. Shouldn't have done that.
P: Maybe...maybe we should get to bed soon.
M: Yeah. That'd probably be a good idea. Uh, goodnight, I guess. And, um...happy new year, Poe.
P: [she gives a hesitant, slightly embarrassed smile] Happy new year, Messi.
Screwtape, I know you're reading this. I'm hoping we can settle this as calmly as possible. If not, well, I know you're a man of integrity, if nothing else. I trust that we can find the best way to settle this.
How would the meme-obsessed people say this again? Oh yeah.
Come at me, bro.
-Don't Shoot The Messenger-