“Cody! Cody! Get up!” My eyes snap open as I’m shaken awake by Jason.
“What’s going on?” I ask, my vision still adjusting to the bright lights in my room.
“It’s Thirteen,” Jason mutters.
“What did she do this time?” I grumble, as I sit up and wipe my hands over my face.
“More like what didn’t she do.” He replies. “I don’t know how she did it and personally I don’t care to know but she pissed him off. We’ve been trying to get them to stop fighting but it’s not happening any time soon. You’re damn lucky your mom left to get groceries before this happened.” I groan following him out of the room and down the stairs quickly. Chase comes running up.
“I quit.” he says, “I tried, ok, I tried really hard but they’re really laying it into each other.”
Thirteen’s fighting with Devin? That doesn’t make any sense.
I walk in and spot Devin immediately, he’s...sitting on the floor in the far corner...with a bowl of popcorn in his lap.
Who the hell is she fighting with?
I begin scanning for her and just barely make it out of the way as she runs past with my brother chasing after her.
What. The. Hell?
He swings at her and she backflips away from him. He swings again and she blocks it with her arm. He lunges at her and she dodges just in time.
“Hey Stop!” I yell out, but it doesn’t work, they continue fighting each other, moving in every direction around the room.
Suddenly he’s able to hit her, and he gets her good. There’s a cracking sound as blood gushes from her nose, she dodges quickly before he can hit her a second time. I yell out again for them to stop.
“Oh shit,” Jason mutters.
I turn back to them, panic setting in as they continue at each other. But I notice something as I watch them fight. Thirteen isn’t fighting back at all. She’s only dodging Hayden’s blows.
“Thirteen isn’t even fighting.” Chase comments.
“Noticed,” I reply. “We have to get them apart.”
“You and Jason try to get Hayden to stop as soon as you get the chance, I’ll do the same with Thirteen,” I answer and turn my full attention back to the fight.
I watch in horror as his fist connects with her jaw and she loses her balance, falling over. He’s on top of her in a split second, throwing punch after punch after punch, yet she still does nothing to fight back, only throws her hands up in front of her face trying to block his blows.
“Hayden!” I shout as I run towards him with both Chase and Jason in tow. Even Devin abandons his popcorn in an effort to help pull Hayden away from Thirteen.
Jason, Chase, and Devin effectively pull Hayden up and away from Thirteen. I move towards her, as she stumbles to her feet.
“Are you okay?” I ask her as I grab hold of her arms helping her to her feet. My eyes scanning over her face assessing her injuries. Her nose is most likely broken, the left side of her jaw is beginning to bruise, and there’s a small cut on her left cheek.
“Obviously.” she retorts. I turn towards Hayden.
“What the hell is wrong with you?!” I roar, he just ignores me as he continues glaring daggers at Thirteen. I take a step towards him, my fist clenching. A firm hand grips my shoulder, halting me in my tracks.
“Leave it alone Cody. It was my fault.” Thirteen states. I continue to stare at Hayden. “Cody” she growls lowly in warning.
I shake my head and grab hold of her wrist dragging her out of the room behind me and into the kitchen. She doesn’t protest.
I grab a washcloth from one of the drawers and run it under the cold water. I bring it up to her face and begin to wipe away the blood on her face.
Her hand grabs mine. “I can do it myself,” she says. I sigh.
“Yeah, but you don’t have to,” I reply. She turns her head away from me. But I still catch the flash of pain in her eyes. Somehow I don’t think that pain is physical.
“You okay?” I ask again.
“I’m fine,” she answers, her tone clipped. “I’m not the one you should be checking over.” I stare at her confused.
“What do you mean?” I question.
“I’m fairly certain Hayden’s going to need to go to the hospital.”
“You didn’t even hit him.”
“I stopped when you walked in.” She leans against the counter and avoids my gaze.
“I didn’t want you to see me beating up your brother.” She mutters lowly, bringing her eyes up to meet mine.
I give her a disbelieving look.
She rolls her eyes. “Just go check on him,” she orders. “His broken ribs won’t heal on their own.”
“You broke his ribs?”
“Only a few...and possibly his wrist.” She adds the last part as an afterthought.
I shake my head, a small smile playing on my lips. “You really can take care of yourself can’t you?” I ask.
“I’ve been telling you that since the beginning of the mission.” She retorts.
I stare at her, realizing for the first time how off my first assumption of her was. She was anything but the weak little girl I thought she’d be. She was a strong independent agent, who would stop at nothing to complete the next mission.
“Stop.” She says, her voice breaking me out of my train of thoughts.
“What?” I question.
“Fine.” I glance at her shirt, it’s covered in blood from her nose. I sigh and move towards the fridge, removing an icepack from the freezer.
“Here, put this on your nose, I’ll go grab you another shirt.” I hand her the ice pack and start heading up the stairs.
“Mind if I borrow your phone? I need to make a call.” She asks.
“Go ahead, it’s on the counter behind you,” I call to her.
I make my way into my room and head towards the couch, unzipping her backpack and removing a clean black t-shirt. I look into her backpack, all the clothes are freaking black.
I notice something in the bottom. I reach my hand in and pull it out. It’s a silver case with the number 45 engraved on it. I open it, even though my mind is yelling at me not to.
The first thing I notice is a CD slipped into the pocket on the side. I remove it from the case and notice the neat cursive writings all over the top of it, they’re all different dates. I notice the birthday card in the bottom. I pick it up and read over it.
Don’t get yourself killed. I had hoped to see you again this year, but certain circumstances prevented it. I promise I’ll see you again soon. Until then, keep your head up...Oh and stay alive.
I turn the card over in my hand and see the date written on the back. It was written five weeks before the mission started.
I place it in the bottom of the case and remove a flash drive labeled 57, I place it in the bottom with the card and remove the last item, a picture.
I feel my breath catch in my throat as I stare at the photo.
It’s of Thirteen and a boy with light blue eyes, and dirty blond hair. His arms wrapped tightly around Thirteen. What gets to me is well...her. Her hair is obviously dyed a dark brown, but she’s smiling. They’re staring at each other, smiling widely, while she rests in his arms. I stare at the photo in shock, the number 77 is written in the corner. I’ve never even seen her happy yet in this picture she looks like nothing in the world could ever bring her down. What changed?
I put the photo back in the case but I slip the CD into my pocket. I put the case back into her bag and head out of the room, and back down the stairs.
I hear her before I see her, and man if I thought she ever sounded pissed when she was talking to me, well then I guess she’d be considered livid, right now.
“I don’t give a damn Zero.” I hear her growl, “I was under the impression that all agency safe houses were safe. Hence the term safe house.”
I’m surprised Zero hasn’t kicked her out of the agency yet.
“If this happens again, you’re going to responsible for the death of an entire team and believe me I know what that feels like, it’s not a fun feeling.”
I walk into the kitchen and see that her back is to me. She obviously removed her shirt as she’s only standing in the kitchen with her sports bra on. But what really gets to me, is the scars covering most if not all of her lower back.
They’re extremely noticeable as they’re a different shade than her normal skin tone, and they seem to run in lines down her back, almost like a whip. What happened to her?
Ryan’s words echo in my head, “She’s survived worse.”
How much worse exactly?
“Oh no, there’s no way you’re sending us to another safe house...Just forget about it Zero, I’ll handle it.” she snaps and ends the call placing the phone on the counter and turning towards me. She sees me standing there.
She sighs “How much of that did you hear?” She asks.
I shrug “Not much.” Not technically a lie. She rolls her eyes and takes the shirt from my outstretched hands.
“Thanks.” She mutters as she slips it over her head. I notice something hanging around her neck as she does. She pulls her hair out of her shirt and I reach my hand out, grabbing hold of the chain around her neck. She makes no move to stop me.
I stare at the silver ring on the end and the two words engraved into, ‘I Promise’. I open my mouth about to ask what it is, but she beats me to it.
“It was a gift from a friend. Basically, he was saying that he’d always be there for me.” She stares at the ring in my hands instead of meeting my eyes.
“Just a friend?” I question, she shrugs.
“It might have been more,” she whispers quietly. “I’ll never know now.” I stare at her confused.
“He’s dead.” she clarifies quietly and just continues avoiding my gaze.
“I’m sorry,” I whisper. Her cold gaze comes up to meet mine.
“I don’t need your pity.” And the ice queen is back. I sigh as she removes the ring from my grasp and begins walking up the stairs.
“You don’t have to hide,” I say, stopping her in her tracks. “Not from them, and not from me.”
“If only you knew,” she replies softly and turns away, continuing up the steps. I stare at her retreating form.
“I was surprised that you hadn’t come after Hayden yet, but now I know why,” Devin states as he walks into the kitchen, a sly grin plastered on his face.
“Why?” I ask him. He smiles as if he just found out the world’s biggest secret, which would probably be Thirteen’s name.
“You like her.” He states, that stupid grin remaining on his face.
I snort. “No.”
“Okay, whatever you say.” He grins wider and starts out of the room, “You know the first step is denial.” He says in a sing-song voice, I grab the nearest thing, which happens to be an ice pack and peg it at him, but he’s already gone, laughing his head off the entire way.
I don’t like Thirteen...do I?