Day Four [Part I]
The two-hour pill was just making it’s inevitable journey down into the pit of my gut when Daniel joined me on the balcony.
I gulped down a mouthful of water to help it along then turned to face him, my eyebrow already raised in question. He said nothing and came to stand beside me. He was wearing a shirt now—light blue, long sleeves, with ‘Good Morning’ punctuated by an image of the rising sun stamped across the chest—I wasn’t.
Despite the cool wind, I was warm enough to ignore the need for one. Besides, putting on a shirt seemed to be more trouble than it was worth, especially if it was just going to get stained by my bloodied bandages.
“Couldn’t sleep too?” I asked after the silence had stretched on for too long, and he nodded.
He had his pinned away from his face now and the moonlight made his skin glow. He looked better out here than he did inside but his bruises stood out painfully like a reminder of my carelessness.
Your uselessness, Kayden. Don’t mix them up.
Danny also seemed on edge, which was understandable.
After today, no one would be able to kill him anymore. The thought of running Italy’s underground was a lot more overwhelming than not dying.
Even if he survived all the assassination attempts, he wouldn’t leave the city the same nineteen year old he started off as.
“These three days have felt so much like a dream,” he said.
“A lot has happened,” I admitted and took a sip out of the bottle in my hand.
Until today, water had never tasted so good. I would have gone for coffee but I wasn’t sure how it would affect whatever medication I was currently on—whatever it was, it was doing a pretty good job at making me forget everything I had been worrying about hours ago.
I felt like I could take on an army but that was what worried me, being unnecessarily reckless because the signals my brain sent me were being interrupted. There was no point in being able to fight if I couldn’t tell when my body had had enough.
“I can’t believe it’ll all be over today,” he replied after a while.
Not for the people who died because of you, I thought but didn’t dwell on it long enough to ponder about the number of casualties that had been caused by my own interference. Daniel had enough self-awareness to know the consequences of what he had done, and I wasn’t one to rub salt into open wounds.
“You’ll be off to Italy to claim your throne in no time, Danny.”
“You’re that confident, uh?”
“I’ve only ever failed a mission once.” I shrugged, not surprised that nothing hurt.
The sort of numbness I felt was suspiciously euphoric, but I knew better than to think too hard about the ingredients of the cocktails Ron cooked up.
She kept the recipes close to her chest and always cut me off before I got hooked on the pain meds. The withdrawal was always agonizing to work through, but if I had gotten back from shattered bones without them, I could do just as well do the same for a few scrapes and bruises.
“Which mission was that?”
“You don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to,” he added almost immediately and I shook my head.
I had my own share of sob stories, but this wasn’t one of them.
“I had just started out. Was your age,” I started, thinking back to that fateful day. “It was just a normal run: drop a package, exchange it for money. But that day I got caught in the middle of a gang war. The other party double crossed us while another gang dropped by for a shoot out. I lost the package and I lost the money.”
“But you kept your life,” Daniel commented.
“Yeah.” I grinned. “I’m lucky like that.”
What I didn’t say was that Alex had swooped in from nowhere to save me and had gotten shot—and nearly died—in the process, and despite the warehouse getting damaged beyond repair in the fight, he had gone back to get the money for me.
That day was burned into my memory, and it etched itself even deeper anytime I remembered it. Apart from Frank, Alex was the only person I knew who could take a bullet for someone he didn’t know.
Or maybe just take a bullet for me, since from that day—according to him—I became his only exception.
“Do you think you’ll be lucky today?” Daniel’s doubtful tone pulled me from the depths of my thoughts.
“I’m always lucky,” I told him seriously. “If I wasn’t, Ron wouldn’t have kept me for so long.”
“You and your boss are on first-name basis?”
“Oh, don’t act like you don’t know, Mr Eavesdropper.”
He looked away, but not before I caught sight of his face reddening. “You knew?”
I looked away too, took another swig of water and stared up at the moon. “Sleeping people still breathe, Danny.”
“Then. . .”
“Why did I let you listen in?” I completed his sentence with a little laugh and he nodded.
“What’s the point in that?” I leaned against the railing, enjoying the cool feel of the metal as it pressed against my bandages. “You’d find out sooner or later.”
“Will the Council come here?” He took a step towards me, his arms crossed. He looked genuinely worried for the first time since we’ve met.
“Are you scared?”
“Yes,” he said. “I am.”
“I’ve heard the stories,” he rubbed the back of his neck and smiled nervously, “they don’t take kindly to people like me. . .in places like this.”
“You didn’t do anything wrong,” I pointed out.
“I know, but—”
“You just are. You can’t get punished for that.”
“I guess you’re right,” he said but he didn’t look any less stressed. “I mean, the only reason I chose this city was because it was a no-phase zone.”
“If you have to cause chaos, it’s best to do it in the safest place, right?”
“Right.” A cool gust of wind graced the balcony and Daniel rubbed his arms. “Are. . .you okay?”
“No.” I laughed, surprised by the question. His honesty today was refreshing. “I really have no idea what I’m saying right now.”
Daniel laughed too. “Thanks anyway. I feel better about not dying now.”
“Trust me yet?”
He paused then nodded. “I do.”
I took a step towards his and patted him on the head. It was impulsive of me but I let my hand stay on his hair. This was the last day after all, we could both die and we’d have no one but ourselves as company when it happened. “We should go inside.”
“What?” He peered up at me but didn’t pull away. “Afraid of snipers?”
I let my hand fall to my side, a smile on my lips. “You’re freezing, and we should have breakfast.”
“We have a long day ahead of us.”
“Do you have a plan?” he asked just as we entered his bedroom.
“Yes,” I turned to shut the sliding door, “I do.”
When I faced him again, he had a strange look in his eyes.
“When I was. . .” He brushed the side of his face where his fringe should have been—a nervous habit—and cleared his throat. “Earlier, I saw the scars on your back. Old ones. . . Fresh ones. Some of them looked like—”
“Let’s not talk about this right now.” I ignored the way my heart had decided to start racing hard behind my ribs and focused instead on keeping the edge out of my voice.
When Daniel stiffened and let his gaze fall to the floor, I knew that I hadn’t been successful.
“Sorry,” he said.
“Thanks for the concern, but it’s not what you’re worried about,” I said as gently as I could manage and took a step towards him, not willing to linger on the topic any longer. “Breakfast?”
“What do you want to eat?” He looked up and had a small smile on his lips. “An omelette? Toast? Pancakes? Waffles?”
I forced a laugh and pushed past him. “If you think I’m eating anything you cook again, you must be out of your mind.”
“Come on. It was one time!”
“One time too many, Danny.”