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Where I Lay My Hat  

“Hank, I can’t thank you enough,” Alice said as she dropped her backpack onto the bed. Dust floated up in the beam of the flashlight. “It’s really nice, and there’s room enough for everyone.” 

Hank smiled, holding the light steady while Alice unrolled her sleeping bag and Susanna started placing some of her clothes in the dresser. It wasn’t the first time that they had relocated in the years they'd been together. As things changed, so did the places they lived. Some kept normal homes, most took to living communally in places like The Rave. Sometimes they moved by choice, sometimes they moved because their havens disappeared in a shift. New places and hangouts, and new passwords and signals. And each time there was Alice, waitress, college student, even an actress once, supervisor at a women’s shelter, her world and her life warping around her, while she remained constant, a beacon calling the lost home.

Hank realized that he was falling in love with her. He cleared his throat, worried the women could somehow read his thoughts. “I always hoped we could use this place, eventually,” he said. “ But it’s so far away from, well, anything really. Except the other cottages on the lake. Although they’re all abandoned too, since the land deal happened. They were the last I heard, anyway.” 

Alice smirked. “Unless that’s all changed.”

Hank smiled back. “Yeah, I guess you’re right. Maybe I should take Jo and check out-“ 

Alice interjected. “Hank, it can wait until tomorrow. You’ve been at the wheel for so long. Get some rest tonight.” 

“He’ll probably be up all night escorting people to the outhouse,” Susanna joked. 

The rest of the cottage was bustling. Beds getting assigned, supplies getting unpacked. A fire finally clawing into brightness in the main room. Seeing everyone come together, work together, here in the place where he spent his childhood summers… It made Hank’s heart full of rainbow feelings. Every time they learned that something had changed, Hank always tried to remember those summers, to make sure they were still there. He feared losing his past most of all. Now it seemed that his future, all of their futures, were at risk.

He frowned as he watched Johannesberg and Milligan check over the hunting rifles they had brought on the retreat. He knew that Father Donnelly still had that pistol Max had given him. At the thought of Max the anger returned. The sense of pride and closeness he was feeling flared into a red rage as quickly as if he had shifted.

Maybe he had… maybe that’s why he had so many problems throughout his life dealing with anger. Something about his identity shifting… He tried to hold onto the idea, the sense of it… 

Johannesberg called him. “Hey Hank, will you walk us down to the dock?”

Alice and Susanna came downstairs as Hank led Jo and Milligan, both armed, out into the cold night. 

“Things feel…” Alice said softly. “It’s like they’re building to something.”

Susanna took Alice’s arm in hers. “I know what you mean. Something’s happening. We’re caught up in something. Maybe this Max is the key to figuring out what’s going on?” 

Alice thought about Max. She was still fighting the urge to call him. “I just feel… That it will somehow end badly.”

Susanna shivered. It was unnerving to hear Mother talk like that. She tried to change the line of conversation. “Did Hank ever say if this place had a name?” 

Alice smiled wryly, her tone sarcastic. “Maybe we should call it the Alamo.” 

“How about Helm’s Deep? They won that one.”