The Shadow

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Almost Family

16: Almost Family

Caeli

“Vince…” I trailed off, we had arrived at the hotel a couple of hours ago, whenever we landed in a new country I rarely slept. On a long plane trip, I was more likely to sleep during the flight, there was no danger in the air, none that I could do anything about, anyway. Being in a new place was always daunting for me, I didn’t know the safe places, where people could hide…

“Yeah, kid?” He asked, and I gestured for him to come to the table I was working on, so he did.

“Look…” I trailed off, pointing to Fawcett’s letter. I had only just found a clue.

By folding the letter in a place other than the middle, I had lined up two lines of symbols that were cut in half horizontally. Together, they created a series of numbers which I knew to be in the pattern of…

“Coordinates,” Vince stated, I nodded slowly, having already entered them into the machine in my hand.

“GPS places it in the forest, I’ll let you guess what’s near it,” I told him with a smile on my face.

“Multiple lakes?” He asked.

“And a large square formation like both of the letters say,” I replied, I had already told him about the landmarks given in the letters, he still didn’t believe that they were all real. The square formation was supposed to be four hundred meters on each side, the lakes… were a little more interesting. There were two twin lakes, both like a figure of eight, and another lake in a square shape.

“It’s all in the Megantoni National Sanctuary…” I added, he nodded.

“That’s a bit of a trip from here.” He replied.

“Sorry, I didn’t know where we had to go, besides its just over a hundred kilometres away… a reasonably fast trip in a helicopter.” I added, I had already found someone who hired out helicopters since we had landed, called them and book an amphibious helicopter for the trip tomorrow, which Vince already knew.

“We should be closer, save time,” Vince told me, I shook my head.

“I thought about that but... we are in Cusco. A city. The closer we get to the Sanctuary, the smaller the towns get and the easier it would be for the Temple to find us. I figured it was better for extra travel time rather than an increased chance of getting murdered.” I told the man, he nodded slowly.

“That is a valid point.” He said, and I furrowed my brows.

“Of course it is…” I replied. It was to do with our survival so, yes, it was a valid point.

“So, let’s hope the coordinates take us to Paititi and not another clue, this is getting exhausting,” Vincent stated, I rolled my eyes.

“Exhausting? I didn’t realise you were doing all the work, my apologies.” I replied sarcastically.

“I am the one who flies us everywhere, in case you’ve forgotten.” I had to restrain from rolling my eyes again.

“If you really want, you know I can fly us around if you’re that tired of doing it,” I said with a smile, he seemed to realise his mistake then, judging from the look of terror in his eyes.

“No, it’s okay. I’ve got it covered, don’t worry about it.” He spoke a little too quickly than what was normal for him, but I think that meant that I had made my point.

“If you’re sure,” I replied, still with a smile on my face. I picked up a pen and began writing the coordinates and the details we had just found out into my notebook.

“When will we tell the other two?” Vince asked, but I didn’t look away from my notebook.

“In the morning, we’ll let them rest,” I stated.

“Caeli, it’s barely sundown. You should tell them.” He told me, I shook my head.

“Tomorrow, Vince,” I replied, still not looking up.

“Why? Don’t give me the ‘letting them rest’ excuse again.” I stopped writing and looked to the wall.

“I don’t know, okay?” I told him, I figured it would save us both time if I just went directly to the point. I didn’t know why I didn’t want to tell the Dawsons, but I guess Vince was about to force me into a conversation to figure it out.

“Is it because you don’t trust them?” He asked me, I shook my head and immediately turned to look at him.

“No, I do trust them. How could I not?” I asked, genuinely confused. We had been working together for too long for me to not trust the Dawsons.

“I think something is holding you back from trusting them completely. I can help you work it out, but you have to admit it first.” Vincent told me, I furrowed my eyebrows. How did I not trust the Dawsons?

“I…”

“You trust them enough to work with them, but I think you lack understanding of what true trust is, what having complete and utter faith in each other looks like and means.” He told me.

“No, I have that with you. No matter what situation we’re in, or what we face, I know you’re going to be there. You are family to me, you’re like the father I never had.” I told him, he tilted his head to the side.

“That sense of trust, that familial feeling, that is something that should be close to what you feel with the Dawsons. I don’t think you do though.” He told me.

“I guess not…” I trailed off. “I mean, I think of Nylah as a little sister… kind of.”

“What about Syrus?” Vincent asked me, I shook my head. I’d never thought of Syrus as a family member… I knew I didn’t think of him as a brother, that was for sure.

“Syrus is Syrus, there’s still some small doubt in my mind when it comes to him. He still doesn’t think I can take care of myself.”

“You realise that one of you has to take the first step, right? To that ultimate stage of trust, of friendship or more in whatever way it turns out.”

“Why does it have to be me?” I asked timidly, Vincent sighed as he sat down on the edge of one of the beds.

“Because... I think if Syrus even tried that you would reject it.” He told me, I said nothing as I processed his words. He was right, we both knew it. “It’s still ingrained in you that you have to do everything yourself, that you can’t trust anyone else and that relying on others makes you weak. It doesn’t. Having a network of people, especially when they could be almost like family to you, is a strength. Trusting them to help you is a strength. Our enemies are more than just one person, they are groups that somewhat trust each other, but...” He wanted me to finish what he was saying, so he knew I understood his point.

“When it comes down to it, they would break apart because of their need to protect themselves outweighs protecting others. Because they don’t want help, don’t think they need it, they can’t trust others to help them.” I stated, and Vincent nodded slowly. I hated it when he did that to me. “But what if they leave?”

“Oh, that’s what it is,” Vince whispered, I nodded.

“I know you’re not going anywhere, that you will always be there for me, it’s why I trust you. You won’t abandon me. But the Dawsons... Syrus is worried about his and Nylah’s safety for a good reason. But they could leave at any point, so why would I want to trust them? I want us to be together, as a family, I really do... but at the moment they...” I trailed off as I realised that someone had opened the door. Syrus was standing in the doorway, I hadn’t heard it open and wasn’t sure how much he had just heard me say.

“I just came to ask when we were leaving tomorrow… if you can trust us with that information.” He said, looking me dead in the eye. There were few moments in my life where I wanted to shrink and hide, but as my heart pounded in my chest, and my breath quickened from anxiety, I knew this was one of them.

“Syrus...” I didn’t know what to say without knowing where he came in on the conversation.

“No, I’m done with this Caeli, I don’t know what else I have to fucking do to get you to trust me, but I’m done trying. The fact that you don’t even want to trust Ny and me outweighs everything else.” Syrus said, which gave me an idea of what he had heard.

“That’s not what I was saying.” I snapped back, standing up from the chair. I wanted to shrink but knew I had to appear more prominent, as more of a threat. This was about to be an argument, something that would vent out a lot of feelings, and I couldn’t start weak. I could never be weak.

“Then what were you saying?”

“I was asking Vince why I would want to trust you because there has been no confirmation that you even plan on staying with us. There has been no communication on how you want to proceed after we go through with finding Paititi if you even want to do that, so why the fuck would I want to let you and Nylah that close to me? Since you’re here, maybe you could give me an answer.” I said, crossing my arms.

“Right, so you want to go there. Okay, well, why would I have told you anything when I’ve been thinking about leaving? You want to know why that is?” He asked.

“Yeah, I really do.”

“It’s because you’re too controlling.” He said.

“Excuse me?”

“Nylah and I have had little input at all in your plans, we’ve just had to pair up or tag along or do what you tell us to do without you asking or giving us a chance to help with the planning. How can we trust you and want to be around you when you clearly don’t trust us or want us around other than to stack your side with more numbers? You’re saying you want us to be close, like a fucking family, well I call bullshit, Caeli. Family talk to each other, communicate, work things out together. Everyone is equal, in terms of power and input, no one is used as a pawn or a soldier. Not that you have that experience...” He trailed off, I was on board with what he was saying until then.

“Wow...” I trailed off, the words had stung, hit a wound somewhere I didn’t realise I had.

“Don’t start with the tears,” Syrus told me as my eyes began to sting.

“Syrus...” Vincent trailed off, his voice shocked me. I had forgotten he was in the room for a moment. “Let’s just take a breather.” He said, standing up and moving between Syrus and me.

“Take a breather? I’m fine.” Syrus stated, his voice still venomous but I couldn’t respond.

“You might be, but she’s not. A few hurtful words were thrown around in the last few minutes, I think both of you need some time to process it. You two can talk it through when you have clear heads and a little less adrenaline in your veins.” Vincent stated.

“Yeah sure, let’s give Caeli a bit to get her shit together,” Syrus stated, he turned to walk back out again.

“I can’t believe I thought we were almost a family...” I hadn’t realised I had spoken the words until Syrus turned to look back at me, something flashed through his eyes... was it regret? Whatever it was, it left as quickly as it came and he gave the last word before slamming the door behind him.

“We weren’t.”

I’m not sure what part stung more, the slamming of the door or the parting words... but I think it was the words.

“Caeli, I think we need to do some breathing-”

“No.” I snapped.

“Or we need to talk it through-”

“No, I’m going to have a shower.” I cut Vince off, he seemed to be worried, but I didn’t care. I had to get into cold water, to calm down. To cry in peace.

I walked into the bathroom and closed the door, Vince didn’t say a word. He knew I needed a little time, so when I came back out again, with wet hair and a clean body, a clean slate, he asked me a question.

“Do you want to talk now?”

He was sitting on the bed, a mug in his hand and another on the table. Coffee, I could smell it. I grabbed the other cup and sat next to him on the bed, I then rested my head on his shoulder. He wrapped a protective and comforting arm around me, I closed my eyes.

“Yeah.”

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