Title: Something Bad
Series: Helena and Shelby
Rating: PG-13ish, for language
Word Count: 1542
Summary: Something bad happened, today.
Notes: First story written in the universe containing Helena de Soto and Shelby Kikorov, two students who are, for some reason, the first line of defense between their college community and the weird shit that happens there.

Something bad happened, today.

I say that like it's news, somehow, like there's a day goes by when something bad doesn't happen. Like I've gone a week without nearly dying or nearly losing something way more important than life since high school ended. Like there's anyone in the world who's ever met me or who's ever heard tell of the phenomenon more commonly known as the Luck of de Soto would be the least bit surprised to learn that something bad happened today. I guess what we need to understand here is that this bad thing is the one that happened today rather than one of the ones that happened a month ago or one of the ones that will happen next week; this bad thing just happened, so this bad thing is my present and that makes it important. So, let's start over.

Something bad happened, today.

Something awful, something that ended up hurting a lot of people pretty bad. Something that hurt Shelby – and that's Shelby Kikorov, my Shelby, my best friend Shelby – and had her doubled up in my lap on a bench back behind the gymnasium, cringing and muttering all about the pain, the pain, the pain, and all I could do was just sit there, one hand on her neck and the other on her arm, telling her she was going to be okay. She couldn't really hear me, I don't think, but I was saying it more for me than her, so that's fine.

As a general rule, I don't really like it when people get hurt. I like it even less when it's Shelby. And I like it even less than that when it's premeditated like this. A boy burst into our room this morning, which in itself isn't anything unusual. People burst in on us all the time. It's that that makes the de Soto luck special like it is – bad things don't happen to us, necessarily, nor to the people around us. It's just that when bad things do happen, it's us people run to. Something about Shelby has people running to her, too – I suspect it's a curse – so when we're together, which is pretty much all the time, the effect is increased exponentially and we end up drawing in every sob story in the state. It wouldn't be so bad if it were just broken hearts and bloody knees we had to deal with, and we do get our fair share of those. What pretty much sucks is that we also get stuff like today.

This kid busts in while we're half-way through a Scrabble game, it's about six in the morning, and says his girlfriend's got the plague. No, not like the plague, sorry – just a plague. His girlfriend's got a plague. And we're supposed to do what you might ask? As well you should. Apparently we're supposed to find out where the plague came from – who it came form, more like – and put a stop to it. Which might sound like a tall order for a couple of college kids, especially considering neither of us have ever met a science we didn't hate (I'm a psych major, she's a history geek from the soul on out), but that's the kind of shit people ask us for.

Campus safety is a joke and the cops are more likely to shake you down for weed than take you seriously, so people around here are always asking each other for a hand. When word got around that not only Shelby and I were willing to lend it, it was a hand well worth asking after, we ended up getting called in for all sorts of weird crap. Ninjas in the library, suicidal theater kids (and it's always the theater kids, and I don't even fucking know, so don't ask me, please) trying to jump off the clock tower, snipers in the clock tower, and then there was the time there was the shark in the duck pond. What kind of person puts a shark in the duck pond? I ask you.

Last month the big one was the thing with the aliens and we never quite figured that one out, and last week was the crocodile hanging out under the cafeteria. And today it was our – and by our I mostly mean Shelby's – little adventure with the plague. It was worse than usual, because Shelby caught it. She got sick and couldn't come with me and it's the first time since me and her met that I've had to go at something alone. Had to go in after a band of Dr. Frank wannabe's, with the specter of death, of Shelby's death, hanging over me all the time. And that's not something I ever want to feel again.

And that's what kind of bad happened, today. People got hurt. Shelby got hurt. I hurt the people who made her hurt. They weren't all that hard to find, once I got on the scent. And, when I got back, I found out that one of those people from before – the girl we'd originally been called in to help – had died of the disease I was meant to be fighting. It wasn't Shelby, but fuck if I didn't wish I had killed the bastards, rather than leaving them to bleed.

The news hit Shelby pretty hard. She's better now, sort of – not in pain, at least, and the hospital let her out – but on the inside she's pretty beat up, blaming herself, like things would have turned out better if I hadn't dragged her ass to the hospital, like she should have just fought through it and gone with me. Hell, maybe she's right. We're better, together. We always have been. Work better, live better, are better. But there wasn't a thing different we could have done. Fuck if I was about to let her come into a lion's den in that state. She couldn't even sit up right on her own.

She's in the shower now, trying to wash all the awful off, and I'm back in our room, throwing darts at the wall and trying to work out why we even have campus security anymore when anyone in trouble just comes to me and Shelby. Like they think somehow we can just do magic and fix everything, when we can't even fix ourselves. I'm so fucking paranoid that she's the only person I trust (even though that's irrational and there are perfectly good people I've known longer than her) and half the time she only feels like she exists around me. If I turned up murdered tomorrow, she's the only person my ghost wouldn't suspect and I'd bet dollars to donuts she's go nuts within a week without somebody to hold her back from the abyss.

I decide to make some coffee when she gets out here. The caffeine won't bother us; we've built up tolerances like you wouldn't believe. Maybe cook something, too. Toast and eggs, maybe omelettes with cheddar cheese. And after I force food on her, we're getting into bed and watching a movie – it's her night to choose, though God knows I'll say it if it's not true, too. And then, in the morning, we'll talk this day out.

In the morning, we won't smell like blood and sickness anymore. In morning, she won't be hurting and won't be raging, and the pain of the dead girl's loss won't be so fresh and raw and I won't be able to see it every time I look in her eyes. In morning, hopefully, we'll be able to settle down what's wrong in our heads with a conversation.

And, if we don't, God help us all. If we don't, than that's it, not just for us but for the whole world. If not, that little dark place within me was right all along when it said that it was just a matter of time before I drove her off just like everyone else I've ever loved enough to try and keep.

She looks at me when she comes in, wrapped up in a towel. I look back and I swear she can see the anxiety trembling up within me. And bless her, she can, because she smiles like it hurts, and says, “Hey, Dee.”

I know then that the dark place can kiss my ass, because we're going to be all right.

“Hey, Koko,” I say.

We bastardize each other's surnames and call them endearments. These stupid little nick names are soft, private things, fragile as spun glass and precious. A name is a powerful thing and everybody has a piece of Shelby Kikorov and Helena de Soto. Dee and Koko belong only to each other.

“You feel like dinner?”

It gets me another smile, warmer and weaker, but it doesn't hurt, this time. As long as she can call me Dee, we'll be okay.

“No,” she says. “But I could eat it.”

It's a bad joke, but I laugh. Just a little, but it's the first laugh of the day, and it's more than sufficient to break up the pain, just enough that it can be swept away by the tides of our smirking affection for one another.


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