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Title: It Should've Been Me

By: Backyard Windchimes

Perspectives: Everyone but Keefe (you'll see why)

Note: I wrote this waaaay before Flashback and maybe before Nightfall, so if anything doesn't seem realistic anymore, (like Fitz and Keefe being besties) that might be why. Warning: Major character death?

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I lay on my bed, staring at the ceiling. I hadn't moved in days--at least, it felt that long.

I barely ate when Edaline brought me food, and resisted her attempts at affection. It wasn't fair for me to be comfortable when he was gone. I deserved that pain. It was my fault anyway.

I could barely feel it when my parents curled up beside me, tucking me in and sleeping by my side. It meant nothing to me. There was just a black hole where he should've been--where he had been.

His humor.

His beautifully messed hair.

His ice blue eyes that could wamr or freze with a glance.

My parents were worried. I knew they were. This time, they didn't even try to hide it. I was scaring them. And I was scaring myself too.

My dreams were nightmares of his face, his laugh, his eyes as I watched him slip away. His last words echoed in my head.

"Save me, Foster. You're my only hope."

But I couldn't. And every night, I could feel myself sinking into the pool of grief that lurked below me, waiting for me to give up and drown.

It should've been me, I thought every day without him. I'm the Moonlark. I was made to fix the world. To save everyone. But I failed him and I failed everyone else. I DON'T DESERVE TO BE HERE!

I made the mistake of saying this out loud once, and my parents hurried to correct me, telling me that I was wrong.

Telling me that it wasn't my fault.

That I couldn't save everyone.

Don't you think I know that? I wanted to scream. I know that...I know...

And I could feel the guilt tearing at me, piece by piece, leaving with a bit of my soul every time. And so the words circled, getting stronger every time.

It should've been me.

***

I locked myself in my room, afraid of the damage I would do if I left. I was screaming at anyone who came close, as if that could bring him back.

Bring my best friend back.

I wouldn't eat, I could barely sleep. Even Mr. Snuggles only brought the reminder of how much he had enjoyed teasing me.

I would've given anything to hear him tease me again.

I should've saved him, I thought angrily. I should've done SOMETHING!

If only Linh had moved out of the way. SHE SHOULD'VE MOVED OUT OF THE WAY!

I knew Biana needed me, but I was too caught up in my own anger to do anything else. I wouldn't let anyone in. Della had to kick the door down when I wouldn't let her through. She wrapped her arms around me and hugged me close, with my father whispering how everything would be all right.

How there was no reason to worry. As If his death was just a minor setback.

And the guilt washed over me.

It should've been me.

I was the one with the perfect life. I was the one who went home to two parents who loved me and a sister that supported me. I was a Vacker, the famous family. The golden boy. The one everyone wanted to be.

It wasn't fair.

He should've had this. He needed this. I'd had a good life. I wouldn't have minded if it had been me instead. He was my best friend, no matter how many stupid mistakes he made. He should be able go home to a family that cared, not me. He should be the one going on with his life, not me.

I remembered the words he'd mouthed to me behind Sophie's back.

"Take care of her for me."

It should've been me, I thought as tears rolled down my cheeks. It should've been me.

***

I could hear Fitz yelling at someone down the hall. I tried to care, I really did. But I felt nothing.

Not that way Sophie was feeling. Not sinking into anger and grief.

No guilt. No sadness. No rage. Just an incredible pain in my chest that made it hard to breathe.

And that hurt more than anything.

So I sat there, wishing I could cry, scream, laugh, anything. I felt like I would never be happy again.

It was like my heart was gone.

I had confessed, he had rejected me. I didn't know what I should feel, how I should be acting. But whoever was ripping through my chest and squeezing the hole inside, I wished they would just get it over with. I would gladly fall asleep for centuries if it meant escaping the void his loss was sucking me into and never releasing me from.

I ignored anyone who tried to comfort me. They didn't understand. To have you dreams crushed than watch your love die right in front of you, watching the last bit of betraying happiness at being held by Sophie drain from his eyes.

At first, I'd felt angry at anyone who dared tell me it would get better. They should be crying. They should be grieving. How dare they just sit there, whispering about how worried hey were and it felt like my entire world was crumbling to pieces?

But I said nothing. I let them hold me. I let them whisper.

Because I knew it should have been me. He deserved to be able to live, to love. My hopes had been crushed, my fantasies of being together thrown out the window. But he wouldn't have to go through that. He could be happy with Sophie.

I was the one who had been rejected. I was the one who should've lied there, dying from my sacrifice.

It should've been me, I thought as Alden pulled me close. So why wasn't it?

***

I knew my friends were struggling. I had known Keefe for a while, but I had never been best friends with him. In fact, I had always been in competition with him. Sometimes I wished he would just go away for a few hours so that I could be alone with Sophie.

But now that he was gone...

I kept myself busy. Helping out at the shop. Yelling at the triplets. Locking in my lab for hours working on projects.

But I knew nothing could bring him back.

I'd watched him die. And even as equations ran through my head, I knew I couldn't save him.

What use is being a Technopath if you can't fix things that are broken?

But now my friends were broken--I was broken--and I knew there was no magic fix. No elixer to cure the pain. No potion to help with the grief.

Only time, which we didn't have. The Neverseen were still out there. They were still plotting, still scheming, ignoring the life and happiness they had stolen.

Maybe this is what they wanted, I thought as I sat with my back to the wall, my knees pulled up to my chest. To leave us so scattered that we have no defense.

Well it was working. For the first few days, I could barely function. The memories tore at me, the guilt of knowing I should have saved him...but I couldn't.

Because when it comes down to it, I'm a failure. The one with the useless ability. The one they barely need anymore. The one that could be replaced.

But Keefe couldn't be. Not to Sophie, not to Fitz, not to anyone.

It should've been me, I told the universe for the thousandth time. Why didn't you take me? We needed him. I don't really matter, in the grand scheme of things. Everyone else is all caught up in their love webs and their amazing abilities and where does that leave me?

More alone than I'd ever been.

So next time you decide to take a life, I told the ceiling, take mine. Because Keefe was too important. The rest of them are too important. Take me instead. Because it should've been me.

***

I went around, comforting Linh and everyone else. Making sure they didn't do anything stupid. Making sure they weren't tempted to do anything I would do.

I ignored the feelings raging inside of me. I had to be strong for Linh, for the rest of them. I couldn't focus on myself, because in the end, what I felt didn't matter. All that mattered was that everybody else was okay.

So I made sure I never stayed still.

And that I was never alone.

Because if I was alone, I would think. Think about what happened. About how I should've done something. About how I should've stopped him. About how I should have been the one protecting Linh. How much I had let everybody down by standing there while he died.

And yet, I was alone in my room when it all came crashing down.

Grief, rage, guilt--it all came rushing through me like one of Linh's tidal waves. I sank to the floor and put my head in my knees.

Everyone thought I hated him. I thought I hated him. But now I knew that wasn't true.

I was jealous of him.

His humor.

The way he could laugh off anything.

The charm he had that just drew everyone towards him.

Everything I wish I had.

And now he was gone for good. No magic fix this time. No secret twin ready to come down the steps and tell us he was all right.

It should've been me, I thought as I let myself do something I hadn't allowed in a long time--cry.

My parents had told me I was worthless, a failure, that I was holding Linh back from her full potential. And I used to argue.

But only a failure would let their friend die.

Only a terrible brother would stand there and watch as a throwing star sped towards my sister's chest.

If only it had been me. Then Sophie wouldn't be losing herself bit by bit. Fitz would have his best friend. Biana wouldn't be broken hearted and Dex wouldn't be burdened with the thought that he was useless.

And Linh...Linh would get over it. She was strong like that. An when she did, she could really go somewhere with her life. She could get married, go into the nobility, have a family without the black mark of a twin and a Shade on her reputation.

It should've been me, I repeated. But it wasn't. So when I see them next, the Neverseen are gonna be the ones grieving. I'm going t take everything they've worked for and rip it out of the ground with my bare hands.

But the nagging voice was still there, reminding me who should really be having this conversation right now.

It should've been me.

***

I could tell my brother was struggling. The rest of my friends were grieving. And the part that scared me most wasn't Keefe's sacrifice...

It was how quickly my family was falling apart.

Everyone was isolating themselves. Locking themselves in their rooms, not going out and not letting anyone else in.

It was terrifying to think that my new family could fall apart so fast.

But I had been standing there. I had watched as he jumped in front of me to save my life. And I had done nothing.

I wouldn't be surprised if Sophie hated me now. She must blame me for his death. And frankly I didn't blame her. Because even I thought it was my fault. And the worried looks Tam sent me from across the room meant there was definitely something to be guilty about.

I stayed near my brother, afraid to be alone, afraid of the guilt that simmered just below the surface.

Afraid of what it could do to me.

In Exillium, I had seen several kids go crazy. They regretted what they did, and the constant resentment and anger didn't help.

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