“Where...where is this?” Sophie thrust both hands into her coat and took a step towards the rusted gate that looked out of place in the side of the hill, its uniform edges in stark contrast to the curves of the rocky terrain around them.
“Bear with me,” Pi said. He reached into his own coat, and produced a small coin. “You’ve no idea how grateful I am that you agreed to this.”
“Well...we’re friends, right?” She glanced back at him, a smile on her face.
He exhaled sharply. “Yeah. Yeah, we are.” He raised the coin, and held it up to the door. “You might wanna step back.”
Sophie let out a little chuckle, and backpedaled a little, puffing misty air from between her lips.
Pi strode over to the door, his boots crunching in the fresh snow, and touched the flat side of the coin to the middle of the door.
For a second, nothing happened. The sun was setting behind them, the mountains casting long shadows over the pair.
The lights atop the door came on, pouring a deep red glow onto the ground in front of the facility. With a loud groan, the gate slid to the side, revealing a pitch-black rectangle in the side of the hill in its place. A musky smell blew out of it, stripping away whatever heat was on their skin.
Pi cleared his throat, and stepped into the blackness. With the lack of light from the continually setting sun, it seemed like a void or a black hole, leading only into the cold and darkness.
A whistle came from behind him. “Is this a movie?”
Pi closed his eyes, and turned back to face her. “You don’t have to keep doing this, you know.” He stared at her.
The corners of her mouth twitched. “What do you mean?”
“This act,” Pi said flatly. “I know what I did, and I’m sorry. It’s okay to be angry. It’s okay to be human.”
Sophie’s eyes darted away. Her lips pursed instead. “I think we’ve talked more than enough about this.”
He opened his mouth, but a frosty breath was all that came out. Pi closed it again, and looked down at the coin in his hand.
“Unless you want to settle this?”
Pi looked up. “That would be a nice change, wouldn’t it? Talking like adults, for once.”
Sophie nodded. “Let’s start with what you you want to say.”
Pi swallowed. “Uh...okay. Where can I…? Alright.” He scratched his head. “Sophie, I feel like you’ve been acting kind of patronising me for the past month.”
She raised an eyebrow. “Patronising?”
He shook his head. “Sorry. Wrong word. It’s...you used to be a lot more open around me, that’s all. I know a lot has happened, but I know it’s not you. It feels like you’re forcing this mask on whenever I’m around.” He threw his gloved hands into the air. “There, I said it.”
Sophie sighed. “I guess you want to hear my side of it.”
She licked her lips. “We went over the part where you and me…” She waved between them. “...we’re not a thing anymore, right?”
“Right.” Pi nodded.
“Well…” Sophie stepped towards him, her arms crossed. “I know you think what you is unforgivable, but...I forgive you.”
He blinked. “You...you do?”
“No way I can live with you if I don’t,” Sophie said. “But there’s one thing I can’t do, and that’s go back to the way we were before.” She placed a hand on his shoulder. “I’m sorry.”
He bit his lower lip.
“It’s just not the same. I don’t have all the memories, and…” She tapped her right temple. “I don’t think I want any more of them. You...us would just make it worse, I think.”
“It was me.” His voice cracked a little at the end, and he looked away, into the darkening snow. Anywhere was better then her face.
He said nothing.
“Look, Pi, I don’t blame you for any of that. But every time I close my eyes, I’m back at the Castle. And it’s always with you.”
He chuckled, and that opened the floodgates; his eyes were wet, and there was not a thing he could do to stop it. The tears flowed like a river down his face, warm against the chill of the environment around them. “I’m sorry,” he said again.
She wrapped her arms around him, her warmth radiating into him. He did the same to her.
Her hair smelled like strawberries. He hated strawberries.
When she let go, the tears had stopped coming, but there was a strange emptiness in the back of his head in the place of the millions scenarios he had run, over and over again; he was thinking clearly, for once.
Pi sniffed. “Thank you. I...I needed that.”
“We can still be friends, don’t worry.” Sophie smiled again, and leaned to the side. “Can you show me this place now?”
“Oh, right.” He wiped his face with a sleeve, sniffed again and stared into the gaping maw of the facility inside the mountain. “Remember Lambert?”
Sophie nodded. “The CCO?”
“Before we went after him, I thought it’d be safe to put everything about me away so nobody can come after me.”
“You deleted yourself?”
“As well as I could.” He sniffed. “This warehouse contains everything about me, from my birth to the present. It is, in essence, me.”
Sophie stared into the darkness. “How...how much is there?”
“When I say everything, I mean everything. Including...including what happened at the Castle.”
She nodded. “I don’t think I want to see that.”
“I’m not asking you to,” Pi said. “Sophie…” He grabbed her hand. “Whatever I do to try make it up to you, it’ll never be enough. But I can try my damndest.” He pointed with his free hand beyond the gate. “So I’m giving myself to you.”
Sophie squeezed his hand. “You don’t have to do this,” she breathed.
“No, but I want to.” He locked eyes with her. “If anyone deserves to understand me, it’s you. Not David, not Candice, you.”
“Go inside, read what you want, and then come out.” He let go of her hand, and took a step back. “I’ll be right here.”
Sophie took a step towards the opening, and sighed heavily. How much there would be and how much she wanted to find out wasn’t exactly clear. There would be more than she bargained for, that was for sure.
But she trusted him. She loved him. And he’d hurt her, but then again, who hadn’t?
Sophie gave Pi one last look and smile, and with her own tears about to break down the dam, turned away quickly.
He couldn’t see her like this. She had to be strong.
She stepped into the darkness.