Fandom: Until Dawn
Title: Enough Love Lost
Summary: AU in which Matt and Emily reverse roles after the events at the radio tower. Matt is the one who fell with the tower into the mines and discovered the Wendigo lair; Emily is the one who jumped to safety. This fic is the story of her unexpected reunion with a certain ex-best friend in the mines.
Warnings: SPOILERS if you haven’t played/seen Until Dawn (although I’m not sure you can really spoil a game with multiple endings??). Also warnings for language, sexual references, and Wendigos.
Series or One-shot: One-shot
Word count: 5147
Author’s Note: You can also read this on my Tumblr or Ao3, if you prefer!
There were weird noises in the mines. Not just the drip drip of the ice melting off of the stalactites, or the echoes of Emily’s footsteps bouncing off of the stone walls and ceilings, or the settling and creaking of the old mining structures. At first she thought the high-pitched shrieking noises she heard in the distance came from the radio tower as the metal support beams were crushed and folded in on themselves. But it had been an hour now since she leapt to safety, just before the tower fell deeper into the mines, and yet the shrieks continued. Sometimes they sounded close, other times they seemed far away, and unless she was walking in circles, she was sure she had to be nearing the surface by now. No, it couldn’t be the tower. The sounds were moving. Sometimes they were behind her, and sometimes ahead.
Once she heard a shout as well, definitely the yell of a man. Was it Matt? she wondered. She’d left him there, on that tower. Maybe he had survived the fall, and maybe the yelling she heard was him being hurt, or even crushed, although it didn’t sound like the person was in pain. Or maybe the maniac was in the mines with them now, trying to pick them off like he killed Josh…
She’d had no choice but to leave Matt behind. She tried to reach for him, but the tower shifted every time she moved, she could feel it slipping between the rocks, maybe she could jump over to the ledge and then help him from there, and besides, she was just so scared, she wasn’t ready to die, she was so young and only just starting college, her life was only really just beginning—
There were plenty of reasons for her to jump. And quite frankly, Emily wasn’t sorry. Hey, at least she tried to get to him. Maybe she was a selfish bitch, but she firmly believed that if the roles were reversed Matt would have done the same. They had only just started dating after all, and if she was honest she wasn’t even all that sure Matt really liked her. If he did, it wasn’t for her winning personality, maybe not even for her looks. Sometimes she was sure he was just in it for the sex, or maybe to win some weird dick-measuring power struggle he had going with Mike, as if dating Emily proved Matt was a better man than the most popular guy in school because, Hey, look, dude, your ex wants me. Matt wasn’t exactly over the high school mentality; he still wore his Letterman jacket, for fuck sake. High school was over, they graduated, it was time to move on. He had a lot of growing up to do. She wouldn’t be surprised if he still thrived off the adolescent drama.
Maybe he wouldn’t have even tried to save her, if she were the one about to fall off the tower. Maybe he would have jumped onto that rocky ledge without a backwards glance. She liked him, but she wouldn’t die for him. No doubt he felt the same way. It kind of made her sad that they lacked passion.
Mike wouldn’t have left her. Not even now that they’d gone their separate ways. He would’ve saved her or they would’ve gone down in flames together. And she probably would have done the same for him.
Emily sighed, the sound echoing in the mines around her. She really needed to stop comparing them like that. Matt was a good guy, albeit a little stupid, but she’d rushed into things with him so quickly. That much at least she could admit. She should have given herself more time to get over Mike. Instead she went crawling back to him just once, only a few days after Matt kissed her for the first time. The guilt raked her, and sometimes to bury the sick feeling in her stomach she was harder on Matt than he deserved. Sometimes she secretly hoped that she would find some unforgivable flaw in him that justified her cheating.
But at the same time, she had all the justification she needed: it gave her closure. In that final night together, she and Mike were able to mend things between them after the nasty fights that eventually led to their breakup. They ended things on a bittersweet note, and now she was free to move on a little more easily. She was trying her best, although she still feared that maybe Mike was the love of her life and no one else would ever compare. But she would keep looking. Maybe Matt would grow on her. In the meantime, what he didn’t know wouldn’t hurt him.
Mike seemed to be doing just fine. And with Jess of all people.
The mere thought made Emily grind her teeth. The breakup hurt, sure, but that fucking bitch she considered her best friend stabbing her in the back was just salt in the wound. Only a year ago, Jess was the biggest Emily-and-Mike fangirl. She would ask Emily for all the details of their sex life, she tried to help them through their fights – and, shit, the whole prank on Hannah was Jess’s stupid attempt at defending Emily and Mike’s relationship. (As if Hannah was really any threat to Emily. But it was the thought that counted, she supposed.)
The whole time, Jess must’ve been plotting ways to sink her own claws into Mike.
And to think, people considered Emily the biggest bitch in the graduating class.
Emily’s phone beeped, and suddenly the little flashlight went out, leaving her in near total darkness. A faint light shone up ahead – moonlight, it looked like. Maybe an exit? She felt a surge of relief and started to run towards it. She could find the others, wait until dawn somewhere safe where the maniac wouldn’t find them. Then the rescue team would come for them, she would tell them about the mines, send them looking for Matt.
However little guilt she felt for abandoning Matt on the tower, she felt nauseous considering the possibility that he could be hurt, or dead. Or maybe the psycho had caught him, and was torturing him right now the way he (or she) had tortured Chris and Ashley and Josh.
This stupid “weekend getaway” was bound to be a disaster from the start, murderer or no murderer. She should have known better than to let Matt talk her into coming. But whether the others believed it or not, she was genuinely worried about Hannah and Beth, so she felt like she had to come. She had enough bad karma to make up for after last year, and this was her way of serving penance. Never in her worst nightmares had she imagined that serving it would be this rough (although “rough” was an understatement). It was like the universe was making her pay tenfold.
As if the universe wanted to reassure her that things could be even worse, Emily tripped and fell, twisting her ankle. She yelled as she hit the ground; her left knee took the brunt of the force. Surely it would turn black and blue in a matter of moments. And the stone scraped hard against her palms, the pooling blood rising on her skin. It almost burned against the freezing winter air.
“Fucking shit!” she growled as she stumbled back onto her feet. Leaning against the wall of the cave for support, she took a few deep, slow breaths, willing the stinging in her hands and knees to fade. “You’re still alive,” she whispered to herself. “You could be dead, but you’re not. You’re a survivor, Em. You’ve got this.”
And that light was still ahead. It had to be an exit. She was going to get out of here with only some cuts and bruises and some burns on her fingers from where she had clung to the burning tower while it fell. Pretty good for someone with a reputation for being a priss.
Emily started trudging towards the light once more, limping now. She wasn’t even really that scared anymore. Just angry. If she ran into that shithead who killed Josh, who cut down the radio tower and sent her and Matt falling to their likely deaths (for she had no doubt now that that was who did it), she would fight back. She still had the flare gun tucked into her jacket; she took it out now, just in case. All she had to do was shoot it in the psycho’s face and run. She could handle that. In fact she kind of hoped it would happen, because she would really love to hurt someone right now.
The dim light ahead seeped into a wide room from what looked like an elevator shaft, though the elevator didn’t look like it was in working condition. Emily swore again. Maybe she could climb out through the shaft…
Oh, who was she kidding? She wasn’t Sam. She didn’t go rock climbing in her spare time, and she had about as much upper body strength as a one-month old child. She would just have to find another way out. But the tunnels around her looked so dark. If only she had—
—a lantern! There, on a table that must have been left by the miners. A lantern and a lighter. Finally, some luck!
Emily rushed across the cave and scooped the lighter up. Her hands were shaking, had been shaking this whole time, but she only really noticed now as she fumbled with the lantern.
“C’mon, c’mon…” she muttered. “Yes! Score!” She laughed breathlessly as the flame caught in the lantern and gave a little more light to the room around her. Now to find a path up to the—
Sudden, burning pain across the right side of her face. The lantern clattered against the stone and went rolling away. She hadn’t seen the shovel coming until it was too late; she practically turned right into it. By the time she realized she was being attacked, she was on the ground. Her vision blurred, her ears rang, her whole skull pulsed as the blood pumped through her, a mixture of adrenaline and shock. It hurt so bad she couldn’t think straight, and it wasn’t until well after she saw the figure hovering over her that she remembered the murderer on the mountain, or the flare gun in her jacket.
Her thoughts and movements seemed to come in slow motion, her vision returning little by little. She tried to reach inside her jacket for the flare gun but the muscles in her fingers felt unusually weak and she could barely grasp at her zipper. So instead she raised an arm to cover her face, which took all of her strength, and tried to cry out for help but her voice sounded far away. This was what she felt like in nightmares where she was chased. Maybe she’d wake up in a few seconds and be warm and unscathed in a bed up at the lodge next to Mi – to Matt. Next to Matt.
Then, with surprising abruptness, the ringing in her ears stopped and she heard her name.
It was a girl’s voice. A very familiar girl’s voice, and the last one Emily wanted to hear. She dropped her arm and glared.
“You have got to be kidding me,” Emily said as she climbed, still shaking, to her feet. “You hit me on purpose, didn’t you?”
It was Jessica, though Emily could still barely see her. The flame of the lantern blew out in the roll, and Emily’s eyes were having trouble readjusting to the dim moonlight while she still recovered from the blow of the shovel.
Jess barely seemed to have the energy to roll her eyes. “Don’t be fucking ridiculous,” she said, though her tone was tired and lacked her usual fire. “I didn’t know it was you. I thought you were—” She stopped, coughed, and finished her explanation with nothing but a weak shrug.
Emily retrieved the lantern from where it had rolled across the ground, used the lighter once more, and took a good look at Jess.
“Fuck” was the only appropriate reaction she could muster. Jess was half-naked, wearing nothing but her underwear (of course, the slut), a heavy men’s parka, and a pair of too-big boots. But she was also covered in scrapes and bruises, from her face all down her legs; the worst was a gash across her chest. Her eyes looked empty.
“Yeah,” she said. “Fuck.” Her voice sounded empty.
“What happened to you? Was it the psycho?”
“Psycho?” Jess shook her head, coughed again. “No, it-it wasn’t… human. What psycho? Is everyone else okay?”
Emily told her about the killer, about Josh, about the radio tower and Matt. Jess was too weak to react with more than a single dry, desperate sob. She hugged herself as she listened.
“There is something weird going on up on this mountain,” Emily said. “The wildlife is acting really strange too. There were these deer that cornered me and Matt on the edge of this cliff, and…” She paused, frowned. “It had to have been, what – some kind of bear or wolf that got you?”
Again, Jess shook her head. “I didn’t get a good look at it,” she said. “But it was fast and… I don’t know. I can’t imagine any animal moving as fast as that thing did. It pulled me right through a window, and then… I don’t know. I fell down that elevator shaft and… I just woke up here.”
“So, what, you think it’s like, some kind of monster or something?” Any other night before this one, Emily would have snorted at the thought. But she was just about ready to believe anything now. So when Jess nodded, Emily didn’t debate; instead she only quietly accepted the possibility, a shiver passing through her as she imagined whatever the hell tore Jess up so bad. “If that’s the case, then maybe we should get out of here,” she said.
They picked a tunnel next to the surface elevator that seemed to slope up. What they were going to do after they found an exit, Emily wasn’t sure. It was clear Jess handed over the reins to her. There would be no arguments from her about where to go or what to do. She was just so out of it, dragging her feet as she followed several feet behind Emily. It made Emily uneasy.
“You need to keep up,” she said, trying to force some bitchiness into her tone, as if she could muster up some semblance of normality. But really she felt so sorry for Jess, she was almost unable to hold onto her old spite.
“Okay,” said Jess. It was not the response Emily expected, so compliant; apparently she’d given up on normality ages ago. But a glance back at her told Emily that Jess wasn’t picking up the pace. With each limping step she cringed.
“Where’s Mike?” Emily asked. Maybe she could rile Jess up if she tried to pick a fight over him. This new meek and mild Jess made her uncomfortable. A little scared too. “Did that thing…?”
“I don’t know,” said Jess. “He tried to save me.” Of course he did. “But… I don’t know.”
“I take it the monster didn’t undress you,” Emily muttered. But still, her heart wasn’t quite in the attack. What the fuck was wrong with her? She’d been scared all night, but still snapped at Matt right down to the second they were separated. Now all of a sudden she couldn’t be a little mean to one of the people who’d hurt her most?
“Shut up, Em,” said Jess. “Mike and I are fucking now.” She paused. “Or, well… we were about to be.”
Emily raised her eyebrows. “You mean you haven’t—?”
“No.” She was getting defensive now. It was clear to Emily that she didn’t want to talk about it. “But my point is, he’s with me now. Get over it.” There was some of her old attitude, underneath the exhaustion. Emily smirked.
“He’s not that easy to get over.”
The words were out there before she even realized she was saying them. Seriously, what the hell? Why couldn’t she help acting like this?
There was a second of uncomfortable silence as what Emily said sank in for both girls. Mostly Emily just wished she could rewind and take the words back. Not that she didn’t mean it. She just did not want to have this discussion with Jess. Jess already knew all about how Emily struggled to move on after the breakup; they were still best friends at that point. She knew that Emily cheated on Matt too.
When they were still friends, Jess was the only one Emily could be vulnerable around.
But after Emily saw the texts from Mike on Jess’s phone at Christmas, after she found out that the two of them were hanging out together behind her back, and after having to see them all over each other earlier at the lodge, Emily no longer wanted to give Jess the privilege of seeing the softer side of herself. It had been almost three months since she had confided in Jess.
How strange then that she so easily slipped back into this openness, now that they were alone together for the first time since before the holidays. As if there was no animosity between them. Never mind that the wounds still felt fresh, that the thought of Jess with Mike gave her a sharp pain in between her ribs as if she had actually been stabbed.
Finally, Jess said, “Yeah, well… I can see why you feel that way.” She tried to smile a little bit, but there wasn’t much feeling behind it. “He’s a great guy.” Emily hummed her agreement. “But so is Matt.”
“I guess,” said Emily. “Although he lacks the ability to, uh… treat a lady right… unlike Mike.”
“Are you kidding me?” said Jess. “D’you wanna know what Mike said to me earlier in that guest cabin?” Both girls stopped walking and stood now side-by-side. Jess squared her shoulders as gently as she could, and when she spoke again it was in her best impression of Mike. “‘Why don’t we start with a little making out, see where it goes from there?’”
Emily’s eyes widened. “He did not!” she said.
“Oh, he did.”
“Did he really think that would work? After—?”
“That’s what I said. Instant mood-killer. In more ways than one.”
Their smiles faded and for a moment both girls fell silent, reminded of the prank that got them here. Poor Beth. Poor Hannah. They probably suffered the same fate as their brother, dead at the hands of the psycho. Or maybe it was the monster thing that got them. Whatever the case, it sure felt like karma was being served tonight.
And to think, all of this was happening because everyone was so infatuated with Mike. Maybe everyone would have been better off now if Emily never got involved with him in the first place. Better to have loved and lost, sure, but this was another level entirely. Hannah and Beth were missing and probably dead because of it – and now Josh too, and maybe Matt…
Was Mike even really worth it all? If only Emily told Hannah what Mike was really like – full of himself, and often dismissive of her feelings unless he wanted to get laid – maybe she wouldn’t have been so infatuated with him. If only Emily realized it herself sooner. Sure, he was loyal and she loved him for that, but he was far from perfect.
But thinking of that night only made Emily feel sick to her stomach. There was no changing the past. She pushed the memory away and looked at Jess, who seemed absorbed in thoughts of last year’s party-gone-wrong too.
For a second there, as they had gossiped about their boyfriends, things had been back to normal between them. And suddenly Emily found herself wanting that back.
“God, for someone so book-smart, Mike can be so goddamn clueless sometimes,” she said, steering the conversation away from the somber course it had taken. “He never thinks before he opens his mouth.”
“No, not at all,” said Jess. She laughed softly, and then doubled over, clutching at her abdomen. “Shit.”
Emily found herself reaching out to help her, holding onto her arm for support. “Are you okay?” she asked. “I mean – that’s a stupid question, but—”
“I think I need a rest before we keep going. If that’s okay.”
“Yeah,” Emily said, though she wasn’t thrilled at the thought of spending even longer in these mines. “Yeah, as long as we’re ready to run. Y’know, just in case…”
There was nowhere to sit, so Jess merely slouched against the wall of the tunnel.
“You need to get to a hospital,” Emily said. “Matt and I managed to make a call for help at the radio tower, but they said they can’t send a team ’til morning when the storm is – Jess? Are you listening? Are you okay?”
Jess’s eyes were glassy. She stared at the ground, her chin trembling. Emily thought maybe she was crying from the pain; she could be bleeding internally, for all they knew. In fact it was likely that she was, if she fell down that elevator shaft like she said she did.
“Jess? Helloooo? Stay with me, girl. You need to be alert.” No response. “Jess!”
Jessica looked up at Emily.
“I’m sorry,” she said.
“It’s fine,” said Emily. “I’d be out of it if I were you right now too.” She tried to make it sound lighthearted and friendly, but really she was just trying to mask the fact that her eyes were watering now as well. Whenever she watched someone else crying, Emily inevitably cried too; she couldn’t help it. It was about a million times worse that it was Jess. And the poor girl was so beat up already in the most physical sense. Now she was just being hard on herself.
“What? No,” said Jess. “Not about that. I mean – I’m sorry about… everything else.”
Emily narrowed her eyes, as if it would help her better understand what Jess was getting at. “You mean… for last year? With Hannah and the prank?”
Jess exhaled through her mouth, one long, heavy, shaking blow. “Yes,” she said. “We wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t come up with that stupid prank.”
“You don’t know that,” said Emily.
Jess’s fingers curled into fists. “People keep saying that to me, but it’s not very comforting,” she said. “It’s my fault Hannah ran off into the woods.”
“It’s mine too. And Mike’s. And Ashley’s and Matt’s. We all went along with it. Hell, even Sam blames herself, and I think Josh did too. Chris said Josh hated talking about it, probably because he slept through the whole thing and could’ve stopped us.”
“But it was my idea.”
“And I encouraged you!” Jess glared at her, as if to say Let me take the blame for this, bitch. Emily glared right back. “Hey, I’m just trying to make you feel better. Sorry. But you couldn’t have known there was a killer out here, or… or a monster.”
“Do you think Hannah and Beth are dead?” Jess’s voice was quiet and small. She looked down at the ground again.
The answer was yes. Emily had suspected they were dead for a long time now. But she dodged the question. “If they are it’s not your fault.”
“And Josh… and maybe Matt and Mike too, oh, God—”
“Jessica. It is not your fucking fault.” If she could have, Emily would have grabbed Jess by the shoulders and given her a shake. But for the injuries, she abstained, and so instead opted to cross her arms very sternly. “None of us could have possibly known what sort of shit was going down on this mountain. So quit feeling so fucking sorry for yourself. Jesus. It’s getting real old, real fast.”
Jess’s head snapped up, ready to jump to her own defense. But when she saw the smirk on Emily’s face, she smiled too. “You’re such a bitch.” She laughed weakly as she spoke.
“At least I’m not a whore.”
The girls looked at each other like they wanted to hug it out, one corner of Emily’s lips curled up, Jess’s eyes finally sparkling a little again.
“I’m sorry about Mike too.” Jess didn’t look away as she spoke. Her expression was serious; Emily could tell the apology was genuine. For some reason it made her uncomfortable, hearing Jess admit she was wrong; she was the one to break eye contact now. Maybe she felt a little stupid for missing out on so much with Jess just because of a stupid boy. “And I’m sorry for all the things I said earlier, at the lodge.”
“Me too,” said Emily. “I started it.”
“I’ve been such a hypocrite this past year. Bullying Hannah for liking Mike, then turning around and dating him behind your back. It was shitty of me.”
“Yeah, just a bit.”
“Do you forgive me?”
Emily shrugged. “If there’s anything I’ve learned in the past year, it’s that you can’t help your feelings. So… I can try.” Try to forgive Jess. Maybe even try to be friends again. She was really starting to miss the old days, when the two of them would stay up late sipping Coke out of wine glasses (when they were still underage, at least) and gossiping together over Skype. Now they were on the same floor at the same college campus, and they barely acknowledged each other. If she was honest, Emily hated her roommate, a girl named Anne who didn’t seem to like her. Living with Jess would be so much more fun. Hell, maybe they could even go on double dates together if the boys were still alive.
Okay – that was a bit of a stretch. But they could start small.
“I’m happy that he treats you well,” Emily said. There. A blessing. Jess smiled her thanks.
It had been quiet in the mines for the few minutes while they rested. No strange noises, aside from the girls’ soft voices and the occasional dripping of the melting ice down the walls.
The peace was interrupted now by a familiar, unwelcome shriek, like metal against metal. It had to be close – maybe back at the elevator. Emily tensed and Jess clumsily pushed herself away from the wall. They both glanced up the tunnel, back the way they had come.
“No, no, no,” Jess moaned. “That’s that… thing. That’s it. It’s coming.” She turned to Emily, her eyes watering again. “I can’t do this, Em. I can’t run. Everything hurts.” Her hands shook. “I don’t want to hold you back. You need to get out of here.”
Movement at the end of the tunnel caught Emily’s eye. Something so fast she barely noticed it. There was no way either of them would outrun it. Her own ankle was still sore from when she tripped earlier, though she wasn’t limping nearly as badly as Jess was.
There – up ahead, towards what they thought and hoped was the exit. A gap in the man-made structures supporting the mines.
“Don’t be stupid,” Emily whispered. “I’m not leaving you now, after all this bullshit.” She pulled the flare gun from inside her jacket and handed it to Jess. “Here, take this and follow me. We’ll hide.”
“Don’t argue, just do it!”
Another flash of movement in the tunnel behind them, but not fast enough. Emily and Jess had already squeezed into the gap, standing perfectly still, barely breathing. Jess tried her best not to let her gasps and tears be heard; Emily resisted the urge to turn around and look at the monster between the gaps in the wood. She had only caught a glimpse before they hid of the long limbs scaling the walls. It was probably best that she didn’t see more than that; she already wanted to scream.
Jess shivered and trembled beside her, undoubtedly from both cold and fear alike. There wasn’t much room in their hiding place. Their arms, their fingers brushed against each other.
Emily took Jess’s hand, more for her own comfort than anything else. She could practically feel the monster’s breath on the back of her neck as it searched blindly for them, sniffing and growling and shrieking again with frustration before crawling further up the tunnel. Jess dug her nails into the back of Emily’s hand. Whose heartbeat it was Emily heard pulsing so loudly in her ears – her own or Jessica’s – she wasn’t sure.
Yes, things were going to be different now. Between her and Matt, between her and Mike, between her and Jess. Things would be better, if only they all survived.
It had to be almost dawn. The rescue team would be on the mountain soon. She would be damned if they didn’t both get out of these mines alive.
She peeked through the wooden beams. The monster was not looking their way. It had its back turned. Gently, she squeezed Jessica’s hand and signaled to her that they were going to try to escape. She held up three fingers.
“Ready?” she mouthed.
Jess half-nodded, half-shook her head no. Good enough. Three, two, one—
Still holding hands, they stepped out of hiding and scrambled up the tunnel towards what they still hoped was the exit, trying to step lightly. Behind them the monster screamed again. Jess stumbled a little and gasped in pain, but Emily kept dragging her on, up and around a curve in the tunnel.
To their right was another wooden structure. Was that sunlight shining through? It had to be. With all her strength and aided by adrenaline, Emily threw herself into the old, rotting wood. It broke instantly. Before them was a ledge and a steep slope down to the forest. They had just enough time to hide on the other unbroken half of the wooden wall before the monster reappeared.
The wait was agonizing. Again, they stood perfectly still and didn’t dare to breathe. Again, the monster sniffed. And then, after several heartbeats – Emily counted twenty-three as she tried to calm herself – it shrieked and turned back into the mines, giving up the hunt.
Emily and Jess both sighed with relief. As the first rays of the sun shone on their laughing, tear-stained faces, they dropped the lantern and the flare gun in the snow and clung to each other, for the moment too happy to notice any more pain.