19. Would You Kindly?


“Do you want the pain to stop?”

I heard the voice, echoing repeatedly in my mind, bouncing angrily off the inner walls of my skull. I don’t know whether I nodded or shook my head, but a hand came around from behind me. I was leaning against someone apparently – they held me slightly upright. My eyes opened, though the focus was shoddy. The arm produced what appeared to be a syringe within reach of my own fingertips.

“You can make the pain stop now. Just like that. Just one hit. Will you?”

I remember taking the syringe, but only to make sure it was real. I wasn’t sure if I was awake or dreaming, completely deluded from the pain. It felt real and whole in my hand, full of a liquid I had been very familiar with once upon a time. Or so it seemed. Theoretically, it could have been anything. But I knew better. I twisted it around in my fingers for a few seconds, admiring the shine of the glass.

“Just one tiny prick and you’ll be better. Right?”

And I remember smiling slightly despite the pain, despite the confusion and madness. I remember staring at that tiny vial of salvation, realizing the bigger picture here. I’d been clean for months, but I’d never been tempted in that time, never been tested. This was the perfect opportunity to fail. I had to prove not only to myself, but to Riley, that there was life outside of the addiction. That there was hope. I had to show her that it was possible to carry on without.

I turned the syringe around slowly, the needle facing towards me…and stabbed it as hard as I could into the ground. The sharp metal tip snapped off immediately, ruining it for use. I tossed the remainder aside as far as I could manage with limited strength, satisfied with my cleverness. The form behind me bent down slowly, kissing me on the forehead.

“Congratulations, Deacon Burton, you have discovered the true meaning of sisterhood.”

The voice was Dacien’s, and she was especially careful as she got up from her kneeling position and helped carry me to a softer corner, assuming a bed. That silly smile plastered on my face, I lied there completely oblivious to the pain. I had proven them wrong. I had shown a dedication to Riley, a dedication even she had never known. And I was proud. No. I was hopeful. I had offered her an example, a positive example, to use as reference. Something that could guide her, a single ray of light when she needed it. And I hoped that it would be enough. I stopped fighting the fatigue shortly thereafter and returned to sleep, knowing I needed it, but when next I awoke, I found my sister wrapped around me. The embrace was almost tight enough to break my already fractured ribs, but I didn’t care. All other details were insignificant. I returned to sleep, clutching her just as tightly in return, hoping she could understand the ferocity with which I would defend her if need be.

“Everything is gone.”

Dusk’s voice roused me from my half-awake stupor a few hours later. Pain kept me between states of consciousness. I looked over to the source of the voice, unable to focus on his shape. He seemed to shift and mutate, coming closer, coming slightly into more focus.

I coughed as I tried to speak, unable to make real words appear.

“The dope. She’ll quit as you did – cold. You’re not banished either. You’re always welcome back, with open arms. Riley intends to stay here though, with me. She is happy here, despite the drugs. You’re welcome to visit anytime, and we wish you would.”

I smiled slowly, nodding back at him. My throat was battered and much of my jaw didn’t seem to be working right, but it was okay. As long as they understand my allegiance to them, that I was sorry for my rage, but frustrated in my powerlessness.

“You managed to prove the most important lesson of all – someone willing to bleed and fight for freedom will always be so inclined. Devotion cannot be weighed or measured in blood spilt or years served. And with enough dedication, any demon may be destroyed. You proved to your sister that you’re more than a self-serving jerk, but you also proved to us all that there is possibility of immense goodness even from the most wretched people. Do you understand?”

I nodded again, completely nonplussed about my effect on the world. I didn’t care if my getting beaten senseless inspired another three-dozen girls to try the same tactic. I didn’t care if it inspired five-dozen girls to fight for freedom. All in all, the only person I cared about affecting with my actions was asleep next to me, and that was fine. I coughed a few times, clearing my throat as softly as I could.

“Dusk…I’m sorry,” I muttered in a hoarse whisper.

He smiled slowly, nodding. “We know, and in a way, that’s the point.” He raised a glass that he seemed to produce out of nowhere, filled with something clear but I couldn’t be sure what. “Here’s to never walking away and being carried out every time.” He downed it in a single gulp, reaching to hand me a similar glass. I shook my head slowly.

“Just water Deac, figure you could use some.”

I almost laughed despite the situation and reached to take it from him, emptying it in a desperate gulp. I hadn’t realized how much I’d needed that until just then, and I was severely appreciative. I closed my eyes shortly after, and fell back into a peaceful rest.

I’d awake again far away from the underground. Back in Dacien’s apartment. I was upset to be deprived of the chance to speak to Riley, but upon further consideration I realized it was probably for the best that we had some time to…heal. Things had been tense and overly violent, a cooling down period was expected.

A plate of warm food was set next to the bed as my eyes fluttered open yet again. I tried to get up but found my limbs didn’t want to cooperate just yet. The moment my head rose up, black and white spots were dancing before my eyes, shaking my focus again. A few more confused minutes of fighting with fatigue until an old voice chimed in.

“You were beginning to worry me there, soldier.”

Dacien came and sat down on the bed’s edge, her own face a collection of bruises and cuts. She was smiling despite the condition of things, satisfied in the progress I had made in the tunnel. She was like my therapist, pushing me toward some sort of personal breakthrough. Her patience knew no bounds, and her methods were far from practical. But it worked, and that’s all that mattered.

I started to get up but she put her arm out to keep me down.

“You’ve been brave enough for one day. Rest, I’ve had your bus ticket exchanged for one at a later date.”

I nodded slowly, appreciative of her kindness, a side of her I was unfamiliar with. Dacien Ransom the hunter, the reckless, the murderer, I was entirely familiar with. Dacien Ransom the mother, the nurturer, the savior…that was something else.

She sat there in silence as the door opened noisily and a small figure came crashing inside. I recognized her too serious eyes from the photograph instantly.

“Morrison,” I muttered. The child hadn’t heard me; she just carried on with her business, finding happiness in her mother’s discovery. The bruises and cuts didn’t seem to phase her in the slightest as she hopped into her mother’s lap, pleased with her treasure. Dacien seemed slightly uneasy, almost embarrassed, to have to share her with me.

“Deacon, may I introduce you to Miss Morrison Lazarus. Say Hello, sweetheart.”

The child said hello in a sort of murmur, her shyness suitable to her age. I smiled warmly, trying to return the gesture as best as I could. Another set of steps were loose in the apartment, a bit too hurried to be Jekt’s, but all the same I was hopeful. Another child barreled into the room abruptly, playful and energetic, looking for her playmate. I sat up in bed with a jolt, despite the pain shooting down my spine. Seeing two adults in the room, her playfulness curbed and she came to a screeching halt in the middle of the room, seating herself on the floor curiously.

“I’m sorry,” she muttered, her eyes staring up at Morrison, who was already wriggling from her mother’s grasp. Dacien smiled at the new stranger, then turned to face me.

“And this would be Morrison’s new school friend, Doryn.”

My mouth dropped, as I’d expected it would. I never thought I’d see her again, never expecting to be confronted with her presence. But there she stood, as innocent and sweet as a spring day, playful and coy. Her eyes too held a sort of inner severity, maturity deep within her three short years. I wanted to reach out and touch her, grasp her close to my chest, but I knew any interference at this point could damage her. Still, seeing her, alive and well, put an equal share of guilt and pride on my heart.

Dacien allowed Morrison to retreat with her friend, and the children went off to play. She stayed where she was on the bed, her expression distant, slightly mournful.

“I’m sorry…I didn’t think they’d escape Jekt. He’s very entertaining to three year olds it would seem.”

I wasn’t upset in the slightest. I almost felt like I had needed to see her in order to carry on with my life. In order to make the most of things from here on in, I could not interfere. I had abandoned her early on; it would have to remain so. Or so it would seem. I hoped that in a few years I could convince myself otherwise, that she would need something and I’d be able to establish communication with her. But the possibilities were too vast to consider. Right now I had work with contend with. I had survival to ensure.

Dacien and I talked about issues of minimal importance, passing time while I worked through the food at my side. She left me to my thoughts a little while after, which only lasted seconds while I passed into exhaustion. Sleep overtook me, as I had intended, and I met a kind of rest more peaceful than ever before.

Here’s to a fresh start and a new day. Resuming a life free of demons and enemies, stalking my every move. An existence that didn’t include looking over my shoulder every few feet – a life worth fighting for. Despite my suspicions and paranoia, there was a sort of calm that came with the new set of standards, and I was glad for it.

A few hours rest turned into a few days of peaceful, undisturbed sleep. Dacien would come in from time to time to check in, occasionally sending Jekt. We all reminisced as much as we dared about the few good times we had in common then returned to the healing process. By the end of a week, I was escorted to the bus station and sent back north, with Jekt in tow. He was to set up a home for the rest of them while making sure I returned home safely.

The great wheels were starting to turn slowly, and it was a nice change of pace to see good triumph over evil. Caine and I would need to do a lot of talking once I was feeling better, which we both agreed would be another week or so after my return. Apologies streamed from him in excess, but I silenced all his pleas until a better time to speak came about. Seeing my physical condition, he did everything he could to appease me.

And such was the state of things. I returned to my slow and simple country life with my dependable, if someone misleading, boyfriend figure. The shadows of my past would follow me north, but only to find salvation of their own. With the new start would come new pains to heal, but that was all right with me, assuming I was given enough time to heal the old first. And if I wasn’t? Well then I’d soldier on, as I was meant to.

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