Status: this is an INCOMPLETE FIRST DRAFT, and has only undergone minor edits. if something seems weird just leave it be


Darling Starling

Finch had been asleep when it all happened. He had taken up residence in one of the empty sick wagons while they were on the move, napping to make up for the sleep he had lost from his night shifts. He woke blearily to an absurd amount of people crowded around him, all staring at one of the other wagons.
He heard shouts to make space, to get away, but more still said they just wanted one look. One look at what? Finch sat up, rubbing his forehead to relieve the tension he held there. He couldn’t see over the heads of even the shortest, so he simply sat where he was and waited.
Whispers passed through his ears. Who is he? Poor thing? You’re sure he’s alive? Where did he come from? Is he going to make it? Why did you pick him up? Who found him?
It was so much. Finch felt a headache building fast, piercing through his thoughts and his curiosity. Pay attention to me, it said. Who cares what happened? I’m here!
Fuck you, Finch thought, not for the first time. Gritting his teeth, he stood up and stretched. His head pounded in unison with his heart and he shut his eyes as tight as he could against it. Finch opened them again once he’d straightened up, blinking a few times and shaking his head loosely. Despite himself, his mouth flapping about loosely made a kind of blrbrbrll sound.
He sighed and glanced at the dispersing crowd. Well, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, he thought. Finch slipped into the throng. From what he’d heard moments earlier, he gathered someone had been found out in the forest and brought back for treatment. And whoever it was was in bad shape.
No one knew who it was.
Nothing could’ve prepared Finch for what he saw. The shape that lay stretched out in the wagon was unconscious, barely breathing in ragged, shallow breaths. His eyes were closed, his hair was rattier than anything Finch had seen in his life, and a long, scraggly beard covered most of the man’s face.
But Finch knew him, even though he had changed dramatically. Even though he had starved and become little more than brittle skin draped loosely over a badly healed skeleton. Even though his leg ended far earlier than it should in a tightly bound stump. Even though he was supposed to be dead, by all accounts.
It was Starling, his twin brother. Starling, whom he had hated most of his life. Starling, whom he had murdered in cold blood the second a chance had arisen.
Finch’s breath caught in his throat as he stood there frozen and watched the medics pour things into Starling’s throat, pulling at his clothes and looking for wounds and infection, slathering what they found with antiseptics and binding it all. They found a lot.
Finch staggered forward, tears stinging his eyes. He glanced at the medics bustling around and when they paid no attention to him, he took the sick man’s hand.
“I’m so sorry,” he said to his brother under his breath.
It was so difficult to reconcile the image of Starling, powerful and healthy, always with a twinkle in his eye, with the wretch that lay in the cart. Starling, always joking, always laughing, always bending over backwards to please everyone else. It had disgusted Finch to no end.
Now Finch was disgusted with himself more than anything in the world. He wanted to tear his eyes away, wanted to run into the forest and retch and be alone. He wanted to never see Starling again.
But that burning shame, the guilt that churned in his stomach, forced him to stay exactly where he was. He stared down at his handiwork. It had been a mistake and he had known it even the second after he’d did it. He had to atone for it, that much he knew.
And if this was how, he would endure it. Maybe.
It should have been Finch. He had known it all along. Starling had always been the better man of the two of them-- and Finch had resented it and let it poison everything he did. He should have known better. He should have done better.
He should have been better.
It should have been him, he thought as he watched Starling’s chest rise and fall, barely more than a weak shiver. It hurt to watch. It hurt so much, and Finch deserved the pain. He didn’t want to be here when Starling awoke, though. He knew it wouldn’t a pretty conversation, and he was going to avoid it as long as he could.
Maybe Starling was going to kill him right back, like he deserved. And hell, did he deserve it. He couldn’t tear his eyes away.
He had to. He had to leave, had to go fetch Jay and Maggie wherever they had hidden themselves away in the crowd. They had to know. They deserved to know that Starling lived, they both had loved him more than Finch was ever capable of.
This was going to be so, so difficult.