She’s just laying there, that baby in her arms. They have glassy eyes, like the dolls that sit on Elizabeth’s dresser in her day room. The mother’s lips are painted, just like those dolls. The baby is swaddled in clothing… Liza can’t stop crying. Crying her heart out.
Arana’s eyes snapped open, to the feeling of gentle fingers brushing over the back of her hand. Her fingers wrapped around a wrist automatically, and her gaze flicked down to meet calm dark eyes. She relaxed. “Hey kiddo,” she croaked. “You look like shit.”
Thin lips crooked up into a smile. “I probably do. But now, we can tell Svorak to cook us up a meal and we can both eat until we are fat.” He reached over to the side table and brought out a cup with a spoon. He transferred the cup to his pinned wrist and used his free hand to bring out an ice chip. “Open up lady; you need water.”
She made a face. “Fine, but no food,” she muttered, stomach rebelling slightly at the very thought. “I wouldn’t be able to keep it down right now anyway.” Her grip on his wrist relaxed, and she let him give her some of the ice, sighing. Her eyes almost slid closed at the cool feeling, but then they opened just as quickly as the first time. “Lucy. Where’s Lucy? The locket. You didn’t forget it, did you?” she demanded, starting to sit up.
“You have it,” the tall blond assured her, half rising from his seat. “Here.” He took two fingers and pressed down on a spot below her throat, but instead of the warm pads of his fingers, she could feel the warm smooth pressure of metal. “I can get a mirror if you want to be sure,” he offered.
She relaxed. She’d know that feeling anywhere. “No, I believe you,” she muttered, laying back down with a grimace. “Where’s Svorak?” She glanced around, seeing that they were in a hotel room (somehow, she wasn’t surprised), and alone.
Relaxing himself back into his chair, Christoph glanced down into the cup and shrugged. “Chasing down a few leads,” he said and then sighed. “We’ve both been watching the boards for you,” he admitted. “That’s why we got this job.”
She blinked at him, expression one of numb confusion. “Eh? Oh, well. You’ll be happy to know that no one of Shinigami’s caliber has come after me again. I got careless, this time, is all…”
Honey-brown eyes peered up at her through a limp fall of gold. “Arana, the job was for a ghost extermination. Weird as shit, crazy to boot, but the description fit and we had to check. One of the locals had gotten a look at you and believed you were already dead, but then you started moving. Someone passing through thought the job posting was hilarious, and so added it to our job board. It was complete fluke that we got here before you died.”
A long-fingered hand brushed the blond hair back and Christoph took a deep breath in. “No one knows how long you’ve been nailed up there. Do you even know? No, don’t answer that.” He waved away his question as he flicked back another lock of hair. “I’ll call Svorak in. Tell him that you’re awake.”
“Christoph,” she murmured. “Thank you. Again.” She sighed. She wished she could tell him that he didn’t need to worry, that it was all okay, just a part of the punishment. But it was better that others didn’t know. “I’ll be more careful next time.”
“Next time?” The tall man straightened up in his chair so abruptly that his spine cracked. He glared down at her. “You need to get a fucking partner, Arana. No, I don’t mean a fuck buddy, though that helps, I mean a partner that will pull you out of messes like that or better yet avoid ones altogether.”
She glared back. “The last person I took as a partner was thrown into a giant fan and shredded to bits,” she snapped angrily. “I can’t be responsible for that!”
Christoph scowled at her for a moment before shaking his head and rubbing a hand over his eyes. “Sorry. Not the time.” He sighed and looked at her with a wry smile. “We both need sleep, I think.”
Her scowl subsided into an unhappy pout. “Yeah,” she murmured. “I’m sorry. It’s a sore subject. He was… very young.”
Nodding, the blond sighed again. “Not many of us last past our first few years.” He reached into a pocket, withdrawing a cell phone and flipping it open. It barely rang twice before the other side picked up. He smiled and turned it onto speakerphone.
“Blondie? What’s going on? How’s Arana? Is she still with us?”
Christoph raised an eyebrow and motioned to her to answer.
“Afternoon, Doll-face,” she said, raising her voice slightly. “I have something to admit. I think I might be Christ.”
There was a pause. A cough. And then a sudden crash of tin and wire and a tumble of hollow thuds.
“Don’t just stop in the middle of the aisle you imbecile!”
But then Svorak’s deep-throated laugh was echoing up from the speakers. “Lady, I’m glad you’re awake, but fuck, that isn’t even funny.”
“You’re the one laughing,” she retorted, smirking. “Bring me back a Pepsi, eh?”
“You want what?” Svorak sounded offended.
“Pepsi?” Christoph repeated frowning.
Her brows lifted, before understanding dawned. “Aaah. Okay, we’re an anti-Pepsi household. What about Coke, then?”
“Yes, we’re anti-Pepsi, but even Coke will roll your stomach,” the blond replied.
“Lady, you’re on water diluted with soup and whatever other vegetable I can put through a blender. Maybe milk.”
“Tofu?” the blond proposed.
“Ugh, only if she demands it.”
“You try to feed me either, and I’ll show you the true meaning of ‘milk shake’,” she retorted. “Pepsi-hater! I hope you’re force fed it when you go to Hell.”
“Is she denying my soup?”
“I think she’s denying everything at this point.”
“Hmm, if Pepsi is the only thing they force feed me in the Pit, I’ll count myself lucky.”
“What do you mean by–Hey!” Christoph sputtered.
“I’ll bring you your Pepsi Lady, but you’re also eating the soup!”
Her eyes narrowed at the phone in Chris’ hand. “You drive a hard bargain, doll-face,” she said. “But I accept your terms.” She mimed gagging. “Even for veggie soup.” Ick!
“Good!” There was a long pause. “It is good to hear your voice again. See you soon.” And the line went dead.
The male at her bedside smirked down at the phone as he snapped it closed. “Yep,” he sighed. “We are both officially whipped.” He eyed her playfully. “And we aren’t even sleeping with you.”
She wiggled her eyebrows. “Funny, that.” She smirked and held up her hand for him to take. “Gotta pee. Give a lady a hand up.”
Laughing softly, Christoph folded back the blankets and picked her up bridal style. “You’re not walking yet,” he told her. “You’ve only been asleep for two days.”
“Felt more like three,” she replied, thumping his shoulder lightly. “You’re not going in with me, by the way. My delicate sensibilities would be deeply offended.”
“I’m amazed that you have anything left that is delicate,” he replied urbanely. “And yes, I am going in there, but only to deposit you. Then I’m turning right around and walking out. I’ll even close the door.”
She patted his head. “Good boy,” she replied.
“Woof,” he drawled back, bending his head to lick up the side of her face from chin to hairline.
She swatted his shoulder again, grimacing. “Ewwww. God, where’s the disinfectant?”
He chuckled. “Somewhere in the washroom, I imagine.”
Stopping at the half-open door, the blond nudged the light on with an elbow and let Arana down legs first.
She wobbled slightly and made a very pissed-off face, which was reflected in the mirror. “Damn, I hate being injured,” she muttered to herself, and took a careful step. When she didn’t fall over, she nodded. “I think I’m good to go.”
Waving a hand, the gay chemist retreated from the bathroom. “Yell if you need anything,” he told her before closing the door and striding down the hall.
She stared at herself in the mirror, and smirked. It was the most rested she had looked in eighty years. Before the guilt set in, and the nightmares began…
Exactly five minutes later, she pulled open the door and peeked out. No Blondie in sight. Ha! She carefully walked from the bathroom, using the wall to stay upright, as she made her way back to the living room.
Which is where she found her would-be guardian. Completely and totally crashed out on the couch. Long limbs everywhere, nuzzling into a mound of pillows, hair spilling back tangled and knotted.
Her smile slipped away. Idiot child, she thought, and grabbed a blanket, tossing it over him. She paused to dry-heave silently over the linoleum, then shook her head and straightened said blanket so it covered all of him.
Behind her, the door opened, and she looked. Relieved to see Svorak. A finger to her lips, and a smile before she glanced pointedly at the blond.
He closed and locked the door behind him, leaving his shoes, he walked over the carpet towards her. Lifting a single brow at his lover, Svorak shook his head. He also reached into a backpack and handed her a very small can of Pepsi.
“Kitchen or bedroom?” he asked her quietly.
She turned toward the kitchen, cradling the can close to her and trying to pretend her hands didn’t feel like they wanted to fall off. Once inside said room, she plopped down on a chair and sighed. “Dreaded soup time?” she asked, paused. “Oops. I mean…” She gave him an innocent grin.
Sighing, Svorak sat next to her at the table, and gingerly touched her fingers. “I deserve that. I forgot about your arms.” He surged up from the table and turned towards the fridge. “Chicken soup maybe?”
She rolled her eyes, making a face at his back. “Chicken sounds fine.”