The Shadow

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The Past

Caeli

I was so angry that I was shaking; I didn’t know what to say without absolutely shredding him to pieces. He’d had one job, to wait for me to give him the distress signal, and if that didn’t happen, all he had to do was wait for me to come back. Why couldn’t he do that?

“What’s wrong?” He asked quietly, I shook my head. Hansen’s blood had dried on my face, I could feel it cracking as I clenched my jaw.

“I thought I had expressed that clearly,” I replied, my grip on the steering wheel tightening until my knuckles went white, a contrast against my blood-stained hands.

“You’re angry because I came to help you?” He asked as I kept my eyes on the road. Looking at him would make me far too angry at this point.

“I didn’t need your help,” I responded, somehow keeping my voice calm, probably too much so for the emotions I felt. For how much I wanted to shout and scream at him.

“You were going up against a man who is twice your size with a history for preying on women, I thought you might need help and when you didn’t give me updates, I assumed that you were in trouble like any normal person would.” He told me. Somehow he seemed angry about the situation. He still didn’t understand, after all this time working together, after the number of times I saved his ass, how many times I had fought against men, against people bigger and stronger than me… this was the exact reason I didn’t want to tell him about my past. After he knows he won’t question my abilities again, he’ll be exceptionally aware that I can handle myself even though he already should.

“I didn’t need your help,” I repeated, hoping he would hear what I was saying and rethink what he was saying, that he would see I was speaking the truth.

“From my position, it seemed like you did.” He stated simply, my breathing became heavy and shaky as I shook my head and slammed my foot onto the brakes and pulled over onto the side of the road. I turned to look him directly in the eyes as I put the handbrake on, hoping that the look would help convey the emotion I was feeling.

“I didn’t need your help,” I repeated once more, my voice was still calm by some miracle. I had to keep calm, if I got too angry, then he would see me as emotional, as a stereotypical girl unable to take care of herself. That couldn’t be further from the truth…

“I-”

“I really don’t give a damn what you think or what you thought, the simple fact is that I did not need your bloody help, Syrus. I would have thought our time together would have proven that I am more than capable of taking care of my self in situations exactly like the one we just experienced.” I stated, I made sure that I focused on my breathing. If I lost control over my emotions… Vince was too far away to help me. I had to do this for myself.

“It’s not that. I know you can take care of yourself, but this situation was different.” He replied. I had to remind myself to breathe again as he spoke.

“Because I was by myself and because I’m a girl.” I didn’t ask, I stated it. There was no room for him to deny that it was precisely what he had been thinking.

“Well…” he trailed off, I shook my head again.

“I, honestly, cannot believe you sometimes,” I whispered, my hands still gripping the steering wheel as my knuckles went white.

“What was I supposed to do? Leave you in there with him, by yourself?” he asked me, far too defensive about his actions.

“Yes!” I shouted since I couldn’t hold my anger in anymore. The pure rage that came from my tone was enough to make him flinch. “You should have left me with him by myself! Should have trusted me to do this by myself! How many times have I trusted you to do something like that?” I calmed myself down for the question, keeping my eyes on him, which forced him to do the same with me.

“A few…”

“And when have I barged in, potentially ruining the outcome of your task, without you giving the distress signal?” I asked; he seemed to realise his error then. At least, that’s what I hoped his shoulders slumping meant.

“Never.” He answered, looking away from my eyes.

“I don’t know why the hell you think me doing one of these jobs is in any way different from you doing it, because I know that… I should be the one barging in on you, not the other way around.” I stated, realising that I was going to tell him my past then, in a rental car parked on the side of a barely used road, covered in dried blood.

“Why the hell would that be?” he asked, now back to being defensive. I sighed and forced my hands to let go of the steering wheel.

“I was raised to be an assassin, Syrus,” I whispered, hoping it wouldn’t change much, but I felt that it would influence every aspect of our partnership.

“What?” he asked me while my breath shook.

“I was raised to be an assassin within the organisation known as the Order of Shadows. My parents were agents of the Order, they shaped me to be a living weapon from birth. When I turned eleven, my parents took me to America where they left me in hopes I would have a safer life, for a while I was travelling by myself, stealing artefacts and jewellery to sell it and survive. I met Vincent in Canada, saved his ass, and we’ve been working together ever since then.” I explained my life before the Dawsons in a nutshell, it sounded relatively sad and empty when I did so.

“You don’t expect me to believe that, do you?” Syrus asked, and I shook my head, I guess I didn’t.

“The Order of Shadows… it’s run by Victoria Ashford, she’s been wanting to get me back ever since my parents abandoned me in America.” I explained, and just as planned a flash of recognition shot through his eyes. He knew that name, it was the name of the woman who had tried to have Nylah killed the day that Vincent and Nylah met.

“Australia…”

“Yes, Vince is lucky I didn’t kill him for that stunt, he could have ruined everything,” I stated, looking at my hands and studying the patterns the blood had made on my skin. “Last year, when the people Vince owed money to kidnapped us, the real reason they took us was an ill-thought-out attempt at selling me back to the Order. For whatever reason, I am important to them and valuable to others. I don’t know why that is, but a part of this whole hunt is that it might answer that question as well.”

“How could a statue answer questions you have about your past? That doesn’t make sense.”

“The Temple attempted to make a deal with the Order, to buy me for five million dollars when I was still young.” I knew that seemed to be the most far-fetched part of my story, but I knew that he knew I didn’t lie. Not to my allies. Not to him.

“Shit.” Was all he could say in response to my story, and I didn’t blame him.

“That is the reason I get angry… why when you don’t do as I say, or follow a plan I made and go against it that I get pissed off. I know what I’m doing, they raised me to do all of this, raised to think for these situations. I wanted to earn your confidence by proving myself to you as I am, apparently it wasn’t enough. So, you got what you wanted, you know my past… and if it doesn’t make you listen to me, then I think nothing could.” After I finished speaking, I put my hands back on the steering wheel and pulled back onto the road. I had finished telling him what I wanted to, and if he wanted to know more, then he could ask me. But, he was reticent, like he finally seemed to understand his mistake and the weight of it.

“When are we going to open the statue?” he asked after a five-minute silence.

“When we meet up with the other two,” I answered bluntly, my eyes still focused on the road.

“When might that be?” He asked to which I shrugged my shoulders. I didn’t have an exact plan laid out, I just had a location that all four of us would get to in our own time.

“Three days at most, but I assume the day after tomorrow,” I stated, silence followed my answer for a few heartbeats.

“Why did you tell me? About your childhood? Why, right now?” Syrus asked. The changing of topics were giving me whiplash.

“Vince… he made me promise to tell you so that the two of you can make an educated decision from here.” I said, I apparently didn’t realise how vague I was being.

“A decision on what exactly?” I could barely believe the question. What was there to think about? What other decision would they have to make?

“Whether you continue to work with us or whether you leave.” I assumed my answer confused him because of his lack of response, so I expanded further for him. “The Order is precarious, as soon as they find out that you and Nylah are working with me, they probably already have, you will become targets. You’re already in danger by being around me, the longer you stay that danger will only increase as they will think you are a weakness of mine. You and Nylah have to figure out if sticking around me is the best idea, I know that Vince won’t leave me alone… but you two still have a choice. On if you stay.”

“If we are already in danger, why would we go?”

“Because the longer you stay, the more I will care about both of you and therefore you will be easy to targets to hit that will hurt me. Aside from that, they may not know about you yet, their contacts outside of the UK are slow, it’s why I operate only outside its borders.” I answered, shuffling in the driver’s seat.

“You never go home?” that seemed to be the only piece of information that Syrus had bothered to pull from my response. I rolled my eyes.

“I don’t have a home,” I told him, but the answer seemed sadder than never going back to my birth country. I didn’t have a home, not one place on the expanse of Earth that I felt genuinely safe.

“I guess I can relate to you on that one,” Syrus responded. I thought about it, the fact that neither of us had a home, anymore at least.

“You at least have your sister, home is where the heart is or whatever that’s supposed to mean,” I responded, in my peripheral vision I watched him shrug his shoulders

“It means that home isn’t a place, it’s the people you trust. The people that make you feel safe, that you love and they love you back.” Syrus explained. I took the concept into consideration.

“It sounds like you are describing a family.” I summarised, he nodded in reply.

“Yeah…” he trailed off. “I love Ny, but…”

“But what?” It confused me, he had a sister, a small family of his own. It was more than I ever had.

“We’re missing something… we’re missing a lot, actually. We have no parents, no extended family, we’re alone. There is no one else, and I know that it’s selfish, but I want more. More people in my family, our family. There’s no home for us, there hasn’t been for far too long, and I…” he paused, but I let him take the time he needed. I felt that it was something he had to say on his own terms, whatever he was about to tell me. “I almost resent Nylah because she doesn’t remember the home we had before the orphanage. She doesn’t see Mum and Dad when she falls asleep, see how happy we all were and how quickly it all fell apart after Mum got sick. I remember it all, seeing Mum get worse and worse before she died… Nylah doesn’t and it… she’s the only family I’ve got left and I still feel…”

“You feel alone.” I finished what he was attempting to say. He didn’t respond, he knew I was right. “If you stay with Vince and myself, then you won’t be, but if you do want to leave, then we will always be there for you if you need. I don’t want either of you getting hurt.” I told him, he visibly relaxed in his seat.

“That’s good to know.” He replied although he sat up straighter again, which I assumed meant that he had a thought. “Dallas, he said you only keep people around if you have a use for them… so why did you keep us? You knew the entire time that we might leave, you knew that we would slow you down and you still bothered to train us and show us how this world works… why?” Another question I didn’t really want to answer, but after all we had said to each other, I felt like I had to.

“Because… I couldn’t in my right mind let you two go without training you. Could you imagine how easily you would become targets? I couldn’t bear hearing about the Dawson siblings dying after you leave.” I answered honestly, it almost shocked me.

“You’re sure we’re going to leave, aren’t you?” he asked me, it forced a sigh to leave my body. In my book, leaving would be the smartest move, so I thought they were going to leave.

“I know that if I had a choice that I would leave me. If you don’t, there’s a good chance that you might die, I don’t want that to happen either. I want the highest level of safety for the people who are closest to me, it just so happens that the best safety I can give them is distance from me. To keep them away from me…” I told him, he was silent for a few seconds as he processed what I had said.

“But there is apparently safety in numbers, and if they raised you to be an assassin, then I don’t think there’s anyone better qualified to protect us. Besides, Nylah likes Vince and you… plus we wouldn’t be able to hunt anything half as interesting as this statue by ourselves.” I didn’t want to get my hopes up because of Syrus’ statement but couldn’t help the small flutter of excitement in my chest. I didn’t want them to leave, I knew that much. I didn’t know why I didn’t want them to walk away, I needed more time to work that out. So, I would have to try my best to convince them to stay… so I focused on the last point that Syrus had made in his rebuttal.

“I can almost guarantee that you wouldn’t.”

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