The Shadow

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Remorse and Empathy

Caeli

I ran to the helicopter, not looking back once at the Priest’s body floating in the water. I nodded to Vince, who made sure everyone was restrained before we took off of the water.

Once we were at a safe height in the air, I turned to look at Vincent. My body felt heavier than usual, the weight of the day’s events crashing onto my shoulders. But I said nothing. I looked in the back at the Dawsons, Syrus was overthinking, and Nylah was exhausted.

I only talked once we were back at the hotel, with just Vince and I in our room.

“I want a home...” I stated, once I did, he turned to look at me with a confused expression on his face.

“Kid, we’ve talked about this-”

“I know, I know, but things have changed. I think we need a safe place that we can call our own, that’s ours and no one else’s. We could get a house in a safe area, where we all have a room each, and we can have somewhere to go when we have a break instead of moving country and finding a new hotel.” I had been thinking about this for a few months but wasn’t sure about it until today. Yes, the hotels were nice and all but I wanted a home, a bed that no one else has slept in.

“If we have a home, we have a place where we would be easy targets-”

“Vince, I’ve never had a home, the Dawsons haven’t had one since their mother died. I think we all deserve somewhere that we can be at peace. Have our own things, our own beds and rooms and...” I trailed off, watching him as he seemed to think about it. “I need somewhere to put my shipping container of things and my Corvette.”

“How do you propose we afford this place of your dreams?” He asked, and if that was what concerned him, then he had really run out of arguments.

“I’ve been saving for years, where do you think the money from my jobs goes to?” I asked him, the man tilted his head to the side. It was something he hadn’t thought about before.

“How much do you have?”

“Do you want equity or just the cash?”

“Cash.”

“About two and a half million. Would be more if I didn’t have to bail you out of jail all the time.” I answered, and Vince looked at me with a shocked look on his face.

“I have been paying for literally everything while you have been sitting on two and a half million dollars?” Vince asked me, I smiled again.

“You’ve never asked for my help, and the intention has always been to get a safe place for us. I figured you would forgive me if I did that.” I stated simply, he still seemed shocked at the amount of money I had.

“How?” Was all he could ask.

“You really don’t understand how expensive I am, do you?” I asked with an eyebrow raised. “Dallas paid me half a million for the couple of months I worked with him. Fifty percent upfront and fifty percent on completion, so I didn’t really lose all that much after the eye drama.” I told him. I wasn’t entirely sure if that helped lower his shock levels or whether it made them worse.

“A million... for one job...”

“Yeah, you really can’t afford me, so you lucked out in taking care of me when I needed it. I owe you a lifetime of free work.” I told him.

“If you get another million-dollar job, you better take it. For the both of us.” Vince stated, I nodded. “And you can also start pulling your weight financially now. Start helping to pay for everything.”

“Seems fair.” I agreed.

“We’ll also need to talk about what happened, I can’t have you shutting down again,” Vince stated, I nodded slowly. “What did you say to them? What happened?”

“Later,” I replied.

“Caeli-” Vince went to protest, but I put a hand on his shoulder and looked him in the eyes. It was enough to stop whatever he was about to say.

“Later, I promise,” I told him. He sighed before he patted my hand. “Now, I have to talk to Syrus. Ny might come in here, so leave the alcohol until I get back.” I said with a smile, he nodded and I let go of his shoulder, walking to the door.

Entering the Dawsons room felt strange, the air was dense. I ruffled Nylah’s hair before she smiled at me and walked out of the room. The poor kid probably didn’t know how to help the brother that had been there through everything. She was worried, but she knew I would do my best to help. So, when I sat down on the bed next to Syrus who had his head in his hands, I told myself I would do my best to sympathise and empathise. I would feel emotions I would otherwise shut out. I would have a conversation that I wished someone had with me when I first killed someone with a blade, personally. Nevermind the fact I had been six and an experiment in an occult order that didn’t care about the fact I was a human being. That’s a whole different can of worms and trauma I would have to unpack at a later date.

“It’s okay to feel how you’re feeling,” I stated, Syrus shook his head which was still in his hands. “It stays with you, the pain, but you’re allowed to feel it.”

“The pain of the first one or...” He trailed off, probably not wanting to finish the question. His voice was too quiet.

“All of them. All of them stay with you. Their blood coats your hands, and you feel you can never wash it off. But you learn to accept what you’ve done and move on, live with it.” I told him, my chest felt heavy as I looked at my own curling fingers.

“How? I don’t know how…” He told me, I looked away from my hands and into his hazel eyes. Pain and remorse, that was all that I could see. How was I supposed to help? He was the one that was better at dealing with emotions, how was I supposed to help him?

“What I do is…” I trailed off, realising that it would be easier for me to give an example than to explain my emotions, I could never find the right words if I tried. “Today, I killed all the assassins that were around the lake. I mean, I hope that they’re unconscious but if they had been, then some of them would have moved by the time we were in the air. I killed them. Their blood is on my hands, but I can’t focus on the lives I took, I have to focus on what would have happened if I hadn’t of taken them.”

“We would have died,” Sy stated, but I think there would have been more to it than just killing my family. There was always more when it came to people like the Priest.

“Not all of us, not straight away at least,” I said, he waited for me to continue. “The Priest would have ordered the assassins to bring us to him alive. At the point they brought us to him, he would have killed one of you for my idiocy, then he would have taken the rest of us back to their base before he would torture all of you to torture me. From there, he would have taken the power from my body, which is gone now anyway, through a painful extraction. He probably would have killed another one of you for good measure, and he would then use the power himself to wreak havoc wherever he wished to, to do and get whatever he wanted. All the while, he would have used the last of you to keep me in line and used me as another one of his assassins. If I broke the rules, he would have killed the last one of you, and only then would I be free to kill him… but he would have the power, which meant he would have killed me.” I said what I imagined would have happened, biting my lip. It was dramatic, yes, but I think it was accurate.

“So you killed them,” Syrus stated, his tone was understanding, not bitter or angry in any kind of way. He understood my thought process, how I dealt with everything.

“So I killed them.” I agreed. “But it wasn’t just to keep you alive, it was to save you from the torment of what would have happened to keep me compliant. I could never have any of you suffer because of me, but I will always take on that burden.” I added, my shoulders slumped as I finished talking. Now he knew.

“If I hadn’t of killed that assassin, or done it with a gun instead…” He trailed off.

“The same thing would have happened. If you hadn’t of killed every assassin you did today, the Priest would have gotten exactly what he wanted, and they would have killed us one by one.” I told him, he nodded slowly.

“I have to focus on why I did it, not what I did.” He concluded, I sighed at the summary of what I had intended to say.

“Yeah.” I breathed, hoping, maybe selfishly, that he could see how hard this is all was for me to do. To comfort someone with words, or at all really.

“Thanks.” He said, a small smile reaching his face, and I smiled back. Both of our expressions were broken, a ploy to hide how we really felt on the inside. “It gets easier?” He asked, and I sighed.

“The killing or dealing with the killing?” I asked for some clarification, he laughed under his breath at the question, probably wondering what choices he made in life to be having this conversation with me.

“Fuck it, both.” He whispered, and I thought about it for a moment. Did it get easier? Killing people gets easier with practice, dealing with it gets more bearable with a network of people to lean on.

“It gets easier,” I whispered in reply.

“You promise?” He asked, and I rolled my eyes.

“If it makes you feel better, then yes, I promise,” I said, he nodded and sighed. “Now, if you keep acting like a downer, I might have to cut you from the team. For no other reason than I don’t have room for that kind of negativity in my life.”

“Sorry to disturb your positive aura, but I thought you didn’t like my smartassery, Caels…” he trailed off, I tilted my head to the side. Something had changed. What we had gone through together, I knew we were closer than when the day started, but I guess I didn’t know what that meant.

“You have yet to meet the full force of my smartassery, it might do you some good to have some competition, might take you down a much-needed notch,” I replied, nudging his shoulder with mine. I needed him to smile again, for no other reason than it made me smile.

“You mean there’s more smartassery to come from you?” He asked. The smile I wanted to see plastered on his face.

“We’re family now, Sy, there’s no one left to save you now.”

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