In Which He Wakes Up
There was a cluttered room, probably an office of some sort, where a few pallets had been set up for the visitors. Fred was laid out on one of those pallets, his sleeping face a picture of tranquility. I sat beside him, holding his hand, waiting for him to wake up. I’d been tranked before, but of course I had no memory of how long the effects lasted. My best judgement said between two and three hours, and it was getting close to two.
Finally, he groaned softly, rolling over onto one side. “Don’ lemme hold you back,” he muttered.
I pushed a hair from his face, saying his name quietly. “Fred, it’s okay. We got out. You’re safe.”
“Safe?” His eyes drifted open, and he glanced around the room with a look of confusion. “Wh-wh-what happened? Where are we?” Then, the effects seemed to wear off all at once as he sat bolt upright. “Where are the others? Are they okay?”
“Everyone’s fine, Fred,” I reassured him. “Everyone’s fine.”
He relaxed. “That’s good. Oh, right, we’re in Logan’s apartment. I can tell now. Ohhhh,” he groaned, clutching his forehead. “Man. I’ve got a hell of a headache.”
“From the trank, probably. It’ll wear off.”
“So that’s what happened to me?”
“Yeah. We were almost out, and you got hit in the shoulder.”
“Well, at least that’s all it was,” he said, laying back down on the pallet. He folded his hands across his stomach, staring at the ceiling like an Egyptian mummy. He only then seemed to notice that I was still touching his arm.
I pulled my hands away. “Do you want coffee or something?”
“Sure. That’d be great.”
I left the room, wandering into the kitchen. “Hey, Logan, do you have any coffee?” He pointed to the top cupboard. “Thanks.”
“No problem.” He was sitting with the others around the table, talking. Tracy was with them, looking both annoyed and in shock at once.
“I told you to keep me out of this, Logan,” he said.
“I’m keeping you out as best I can,” Logan replied, sounding frustrated. “You moved out of the apartment, for God’s sake. But I can’t just turn people away, especially when they’re injured.”
“Does it make you uncomfortable?” Jason asked, trying to inject himself into the conversation.
“What, having a bunch of strangers at my house, or my boyfriend hanging out with...with....” He bit his lip, waving his hand around the table. “With you!”
I bristled at his comment, but told myself to let it go. Tracy was still trying to understand what was going on, and yes, we had pretty much forced ourselves into his life. I couldn’t really get on him for being angry, or uncomfortable.
“Look at it this way, Tracy,” Logan said. “If they were human, wouldn’t you want to help them?”
“Of course. Now, I still might not be okay with them sleeping in the office, but....”
“Then why is this any different?”
“It’s...I...aren’t you even a little bit worried about what they might do?”
“Not at all?”
“No siree,” Logan answered, shaking his head. “I wish you’d just get to know them. They’re nice people, Tracy.”
“I’m sure,” he said. “But they still, well, they still scare me.” Tracy glanced at Levi. “No offense.”
“None taken,” he answered. With his rough, no-nonsense attitude and looks, Levi was used to being taken as scary. “Well, we’ll be out of your hair soon enough. Within a day or two, in fact, depending on how long it takes our man to recover.”
“You’re coming with us?”
He confirmed that they were, before asking if it would be necessary to keep up the act. I told him that yes, it would, bracing myself for an inevitable talking-to that didn’t come. Instead, he asked, “What’s that on your arm?"
I grabbed a pen and a napkin from the table, transcribing in full the list of words and phrases I had on my skin: Little Rock, Birmingham, Atlanta, Lexington, St Louis, New Orleans, Nashville, eyes everywhere. “We found this written in an agent’s email at the center. An email from Tyrone himself, as it happens. It seems he has spies here, and not only here.” I looked up. “He had the foresight to put his ‘eyes’ in seven cities. Tyrone is serious about this.”
Logan whistled. “I’ll say! Who’s Tyrone?”
“Fred didn’t tell you?”
“Oh, wait, isn’t he the director guy?”
“That’s the one.”
“Oh, okay. Why does he hate you? Fred never explained that part.”
“It’s a long story,” I said. “Let’s just say he and I have a history, and not a pleasant one.”
“You’re enemies, then?” he persisted.
“He killed my father.”
“Oh.” Logan was struck dumb by my blunt revelation. “That’ll do it, I guess.”
“Yes, it will.”
The coffeepot whistled. I prepared a couple cups of the stuff, and went back into the cluttered room. Fred thanked me, and I sat down beside him. “You doing alright?” I asked. “Those tranquilizers are a pain in the neck, I know.”
“Almost literally,” he said, rubbing his shoulder. “A few inches to the right, and maybe.”
“Maybe,” I laughed.
“Man oh man,” he sighed, “that was an adrenaline rush, even with the added unconsciousness.”
“You were out for a long time. Couple hours at least. I was getting worried.”
Fred shrugged. “I didn’t feel a thing. Once it took hold....” He snapped his fingers. “Bam. Out like a light, until I woke up having no idea where I was or why I was there. Actually, I half expected to wake up in a cell.”
“I wouldn’t let that happen to you,” I said in my fierce, quiet voice.
He stood, placing his coffee on a dusty table under a window, leaning against it and looking out at the street below. “I know that.”
I looked out the window too, putting a hand on the wall just above where he was leaning. My other hand drifted closer to mine on the sill, grazing my fingers just like they’d been on the porch the night we left. The night we left... We stood like that for what felt like minutes, locking eyes for a second at a time before our gazes drifted back out the window. Finally, he said, “Are you going to move?”
“I’m not the one with their arm up.”
I didn’t take my arm down. Come on, you oaf, kiss me again.
Fred didn’t move. Well, in that case, I was just gonna have to make the first move myself.
Suddenly, he asked, “What are you doing, Hailee?”
“This,” I said, as I brought my hand down to his shoulder. The second kiss was quicker, more furtive, than the first, and this time, I was the one to initiate it. To me, that made it something to remember.
When he pulled away we were silent. I didn’t want to be; there was so much, so much, I wanted to say to him. I wanted to tell him I was glad for this, to tell him he was the one I had chosen, the one I wanted to be with.
I wanted to tell him I loved him.
Instead, I took my arm down. “I’m gonna get more coffee.” My cup wasn’t empty. “You need anything I didn’t ask about before?”
He rubbed his temples. “Ask Logan if he has anything for a headache. These tranks are a real pain to get rid of.”
“Sure thing.” I was well familiar with Fred’s sensitivity to aches and pains, particularly the “moon hangovers” he got after the Change. His head was probably killing him.
This time, I found Logan standing at the door, saying goodbye to Tracy. I asked him offhandedly if he had any pain medicine, and he gestured back to his cabinets. I found it, and brought some back upstairs. “Here.”
“Thanks.” Just like before, we didn’t say anything about the kiss. It was just there, a memory. Our relationship was so fragile in its confused state that I was scared even talking about it would damage it.
So we talked about other things, instead. He asked about the city names, and I told him. “I think maybe I was right not to trust the new wolfpack,” I confided. “Who knows, maybe one or more of them are his ‘eyes.’”
“You think so?” he asked, doubtfully. “I don’t like to believe they’d do that. They all seem like really nice people.”
“Maybe they are,” I said. “I could be wrong. But I wouldn’t rule it out. Anyone can make a deal with the devil, metaphorically speaking. Literally too, I guess, but that’s beside the point.”
“I’m beginning to think we should never have left Three Brothers.”
“I’m beginning to agree with you.”