Killian was still asleep by the time I woke up. For some reason, this made me mad. Who was the one that couldn’t sleep last night because someone invaded her bed? That’s right, me. Yet here I am, up bright and early, ready to survive. We may have a deal, but as far as I’m concerned, I’m not his mother. I wasn’t going to let him leech off the food I rightfully earned. With this in mind, I marched over to his bedside. His features were softer in his sleep. The rise and fall of his chest was slow and measured. Occasionally, his face twitched from whatever dream he was having, and if I hadn’t known any better, I would’ve thought he looked like an average, innocent person.
“Hey,” I said quieter than I wanted to.
Just like that, his eyes opened, like a machine responding to a voice command.
“If you want food, you can get it yourself,” I said more sternly. “You can come with me if you want, but what I steal is mine and mine alone.”
He blinked at me a couple of times before he got up out of bed, completely exposing himself as the sheets fell away from his pale body. This caught me off-guard and I gasped, quickly looking away.
“What?” he said, his voice sounding a bit groggy.
“Why do you sleep like that?” I said uncomfortably with my eyes squeezed shut.
“Like that.” I waved my hand around in his general direction. “Aren’t you cold? You’re hardly wearing anything.”
“I would’ve worn nothing if it weren’t for you.”
“Um, I appreciate that, but could you at least wear pants?”
There was a long silence, and I was slightly tempted to peek at him until he finally spoke again.
“Do I repel you that much?”
I jumped back when his voice sounded like he was standing right in front of me.
“N-no,” I stammered, my face heating up at the thought of his proximity. “I just—I’ve never seen a man like that before. Why do you care what I think anyway?”
“I don’t,” he answered bluntly. “However, I would find it surprising if the sight of my body repelled you.”
"Why?” I asked disgustedly.
“Well, it certainly would give you a rather significant contradictory trait compared to human women.”
“I guess I don’t understand what you’re trying to say.”
I heard the irritation in his voice. “Women on my home planet would give themselves to me if I asked for them without a thought. They adore me and worship me as if I were God.”
At that, I made a face and smirked. Who would ever want someone as immodest as him? After that comment, I was almost tempted to tell him how I really felt about that statement. Instead, I decided to walk along the border.
“Well, if it accounts for anything, I don’t want you, Killian,” I said, still keeping my eyes shut. “And just so we’re clear, I want you to know that I will never want you. The only reason why you’re staying with me is because I was stupid enough to make a deal with you. For what reason, I don’t know, but probably because I knew I didn’t have a choice anyway after you cracked my head open and dragged me into an alley against my own will. As soon as you have the opportunity to leave, I want you gone. Until then, you will not touch me, you will not hurt me, and you will not force yourself onto me. If you do, I will not hesitate to kill you like I did last night.”
Before he even said anything, the temperature in the room seemed to plummet. A chill threatened to run up the curve of my spine under the look he was surely giving me now. But I ignored it. I didn’t care what he thought about my answer. The only thing I cared about was if he would respect my demands in the future. It took a long time for him to speak to me, but when he did, I could tell he was struggling to control his tone.
“I see. You have made yourself very clear, Jianna. Do not fret. I was never interested in you to begin with. Aside from the circular pigments on your arms and the fluorescent purple hue in your irises, you are much too similar to the humans of my planet for my tastes.”
The sound of cloth brushing against skin was enough for me to crack one eye open. From where he had slept, the pillow had disheveled his hair and his fringe still obscured his face from view. He had his pants on now, but his upper body was still completely exposed, practically gleaming in the light of the suns’ rays. It was nearly blinding to stare directly at him. Were all humans this pale? Only one eye was visible, which watched me intently as he reached for his shirt.
“Where are we going?” he said, as he pulled it over his head.
He sat down to tug on his boots, and I crossed the room to my closet, which had a false panel in the back.
“Wherever there’s food,” I said, removing it with a grunt.
“You don’t strategize very well, do you?”
“Thieves don’t need to strategize,” I retorted, stepping into the hidden room.
There wasn’t much in here compared to what it had looked like a couple of weeks ago. I frowned at the cardboard box in the far corner, knowing it would be either empty or filled with junk. A few makeshift lockpicks were scattered about the floor, some broken, some left unfinished. The loot bag on the small desk by the one-way window was what I was looking for. By the time I grabbed it and started rummaging through its contents, Killian had followed me inside, assessing his surroundings. For a second, he looked like a little boy who was discovering something new, but I didn’t dare tell him that. Once he made eye contact with me, I tossed him the bag.
“You’re the bagger,” I explained. “Don’t touch anything, don’t do anything, and don’t say anything unless I tell you to, got it?”
He stared at me.
“Good,” I said. “Although, you might as well answer ‘yes, Jianna’ or ‘no, Jianna’ when I’m talking to you.”
“Don’t push it.”
I held up my hands in surrender, and said, “Just checking to see if you’re actually listening to me. Now that that’s cleared up, let’s go.”
Jev City was always depressingly overcast, but today the skies were especially dark. I wasn’t sure how that would affect us, but I had a bad feeling about it. Killian and I walked the streets, casually glancing at potential candidates for robbery. There was the obvious baker’s shop, along with Karliah’s Pastries just across the street. I suggested we raid vacant houses, but he said:
“That would be foolish.”
Naturally, I was offended.
“Maybe you weren’t listening when I said I’ve been doing this for three years now,” I said to him quietly, hoping passersby wouldn’t hear me. ”You, on the other hand, are an alien life form who most likely fell out of the sky.”
“I did fall out of the sky,” he replied monotonously.
“Hm, right, and you couldn’t tell me this last night, because—?”
“You wouldn’t let me explain myself, remember?”
“Well, I should think you would at least tell me that much, considering falling out of the sky is a pretty big deal.”
“I couldn’t imagine why.”
"Why?” I asked in disbelief. “Because now I’m wondering how the hell you even survived!”
“That one,” he said, nodding towards the butcher shop. “We’ll take from that one.”
I sighed. At this point, I knew he wouldn’t acknowledge our conversation until we finished our business first. Unfortunately, it looked like we would be taking longer than I anticipated.
Scrunching my nose at the building, I said, “I don’t eat meat.”
He gave me a dirty look.
"What?” I snapped, looking away to avoid his glare. “I don’t know how to cook or make a fire.”
“You really are pathetic,” he jeered. “No wonder you look so malnourished. You call yourself a survivor? You can’t even—”
“I get it,” I interrupted, my cheeks flushing with anger.
He sighed impatiently before continuing, “Fortunately for you, I know how to do both. You can thank me later.”
I rolled my eyes as soon as his back was turned, and followed him. It was difficult to keep up with his long strides, considering he was a whole head taller than me. Eventually, he slowed down as we approached the building. He turned sharply to the right before cutting back again behind the store so that no one could see us. Without hesitation, he walked right in through the back door. I wanted to scream at him to stop, but I knew that would blow our cover. So, I bit my lip, fighting back the urge to curse at the top of my lungs, and went in after him. When the door closed behind me, it was only then that I realized how dark it was inside the store. I could barely see my hands in front of my face.
"Killian,” I whispered into the darkness.
There was an eerie silence in this place that made me feel uneasy. Not only was it deathly quiet, but it also felt like I was tightly packed in a mountain of snow. Using only my hands as my source of guidance, I walked blindly through the open space ahead of me, simply hoping that I wouldn’t hit something or knock any glass over.
"Killian!” I whispered a little louder.
Then, something cold and slimy touched my hand. I jumped back, gasping at the feeling of the strange texture on my fingertips. I jumped again when I heard the sound of a match being struck and a shimmer of candlelight appeared in my peripheral. I hid behind the first thing I saw, which happened to be the thing I had touched. A skinned animal carcass. With a startling amount of force, I was tugged down to the ground, a large hand clasping firmly over my mouth. In the dim light, as he turned me around, Killian put a finger to his lips.
“Is someone here?” a man’s voice called out.
He released me, rising to stand in plain sight. There were no words to describe how confused and utterly shocked I was when he pursued the man head-on.
“What are you—?”
The man was cut off by a whack and a thud following suit. I jumped out from my hiding place to see the butcher lying on the ground, with Killian looking down at him emotionlessly.
“You bastard! What are you doing?” I screeched, running over to pound my fists against his chest. “You killed him!”
“I didn’t,” he said as he caught my arms, “but with luck, the cold will take him.”
“No. Get him out of here now. He didn’t do anything to us.”
“If it wasn’t for you blundering about like a lost infant, I wouldn’t have had to do it.”
"I was being quiet.”
“No, you were being ignorant.”
“Says the one who just walked right into a store we’re trying to steal from!”
“The door was unlocked.”
"So?” I shouted.
“What would you have wanted me to do? Should I have climbed up on the roof and lowered you down on a rope just to steal a few cuts of meat?”
“That makes a whole lot more sense than just walking in like you own the place.”
“Stop talking. You don’t have much time in here; this is a deep freezer and it will kill you if you stay too long. Get only what we need for the day and let’s go.”
“I’m not asking, I’m telling.”
“I’m not asking, either. Take him outside or I’m not going anywhere.”
He gave me a murderous glare.
“Why are you so stubborn,” he hissed.
I crossed my arms over my chest and sat down on the floor next to the unconscious man to prove my point. It didn’t make sense to me why anyone would leave a person in a place so dangerous—especially when that person is knocked out cold. Killian wasn’t exactly a normal person here in my world, and I wasn’t sure what humans were like on Earth, but my people would never dream of doing such a thing.
“You are a cold, heartless psychopath, you know that?”
He smirked and said, “Was that supposed to hurt my feelings?”
I cracked my fingers at him as hard as I could.
“Is that how Skelts insult each other?” he laughed humorlessly. “How intimidating.”
“Seeing as you’re human, I wouldn’t expect you to know how insulting it really is,” I spat.
“Once again, you are wrong. I am not human, but you would’ve known that had I explained everything to you. You can sit there and act like a child all you want. However, know that I was the one who fed you this day.”
A twinge of anger flickered through me like fire at his provocative comment. As he disappeared among the carcasses of animals, I immediately got to work on getting the unconscious man out of here. Killian would have done it faster, considering he was extraordinarily stronger than me, but my strength would have to do. For his size, he was shockingly heavy, but I wasn’t about to drag him across the floor like a bag of sand. Bending down to drape his arm over my shoulders, I wrapped an arm around his waist. His skin was already ice-cold. I grunted as all of his weight finally depended on me for support. I wasn’t sure if it was shortness of breath from the cold or the brutal workout it required to hold him up, but either way, I was starting to feel lightheaded. My ears started ringing and my brain seemed to pulsate against the walls of my skull. Could it be the freezer doing this to me?
“Killian!” I called out.
It didn’t surprise me that he never answered, but I had at least some shred of hope that he would help me. As expected, I was left to struggle, tripping over things that hadn’t been there before, or so I had thought. I dropped him at least six times before I finally reached the backdoor. I fell through the door as I turned the knob and felt the pressure easing from my mind as my limbs gave out from underneath me. The ground felt so deliciously warm and life-giving as I embraced it and absorbed its heat. As I laid there on the ground, struggling to catch my breath, I waited for Killian to come out with the food. There was no sense in going back in there. It was way too cold and he simply wasn’t worth it. Although, it was clear we had to have a serious talk about some things once we returned to Cork’s Corner.