The rush is starting to fade (or maybe the crash is coming). You turn your head to look at him, and he finally comes into focus.

Dr. Process is in a way you haven’t seen him, and it takes you a really long time to chew on every individual detail. He looks haggard, but not in that way he gets after a drink – he’s beet red, sweaty. He has bandages and scrapes and bleeding cuts. He’s holding a stapler, also soaked in blood.

“What happened to you?” you ask.

“Oh.” He looks briefly towards you and the rage sputters again, but his eyes flick to the side before the connection meets. Probably just reflexively following audio direction. “Don’t worry about it.”

You scan your surroundings. “And where is Mags?”

“Right, well…” He licks his lips; my eyes wander to his mouth, tongue. You are not paying me any mind. “I left her behind, um…”

You look at him expectantly.

“She’s not taking it well.”

“Taking what well?”

“Your death.” He starts fiddling with the stapler.

“Wait, and if you thought I was dead…”

“I came back for you because I didn’t want you to be part of the system,” he says sheepishly. “This stupid… bullshit system. I’m done with it.”

Your jaw drops. You walk towards him, hands shaking. He stands to his feet, and now he’s backing away, lifting his hands to his face and shutting his eyes tight like he’s expecting you to hit him (I know you would never, but that’s his default response to any conflict). Still, he drops the stapler to the floor. Your heart hurts.

“I’m sorry, Josie,” he whispers. You hug him tight.