We hurry back to the motel, or at least as fast as we can when I can barely walk. Cas’ face is cold, hard, and I know that he’s seeing those two men fall to the ground, again and again, like the image is on a loop. Still, he keeps his arms around me, helping me walk, in fact he is almost carrying me by the end of the journey
We stop when we near the car-park. We went the long way-round, skirting around the towns, the buildings, so we couldn’t be seen. I turn to face him, gasping, everything spinning, so I focus on his face, lit up by streetlights that are steadily turning on around us.
“You didn’t have to do it Cas. I didn’t want you to! I could have done it, I was going to do it.” I stumbled slightly, the dull pulsing pain bursting out suddenly with a higher intensity. Cas wraps an arm around my waist to steady me. He cuts me off, staring at me with an intensity I wasn’t used to.
“Of course you could have done it Tallie. I know how strong you are, you don’t have to tell me that.” His breathing is coming out harshly, but his eyes are soft.
“Yes, of course I know but- I don’t want you to…” I trail off, trying to express my anger and sorrow.
“This is all of our fight, Tallie. Despite how much you tell yourself you can, you cannot keep sacrificing yourself for us, shouldering burdens you shouldn’t have to bear alone. I’ve told you a hundred times and I will tell ou a hundred more: you are fire Tallie. Stop trying to extinguish it, just in case other people get burnt.”
I stare at him, rendered wordless for one of the first times in my life. It hurts somehow, to have him think so highly of me, when I am no way as kind or as brave or as anything as him, or as the others. I am the one that is a burden because I can’t control myself or my powers. I have never though that I was the fire, rather that I was controlled by it. I open myself to say something, anything, to tell him what that means to me, to repay the gift, but he cuts me off.
“Come on, we have to get you back to Mel and Pete.” Cas has wrapped up the hole in my wing as well as he can with the mini first aid kit he was carrying, and I can feel it beginning to heal (all four of us heal fast). I’ve always healed faster when my wings out, even if, as they are currently, folded at my back with a coat over them. It hurt like hell to fold them up, but we’ve never tried to draw my wings back into me when they’re injured. When my wings vanish, we don’t know where they go. They don’t vanish into my back, they just shift away. If they do manage to vanish inside me though, it could cause internal bleeding now that they’ve got a bloody great hole in them.
We stumble up through the reception, Cas mouthing “too much to drink” at the receptionist. Without even asking, Cas scoops me up instead of letting me take the stairs, careful not to put pressure on my wings. I hit him, feebly on the chest, murmuring that I can walk, but he ignores me. We walk up to room 24, and before Cas can lift his hand to knock, the door flies open, and we are faced by a thunderstorm.
“Where the hell have you been? How dare you? We have been in pieces here, you have been gone for hours! You were only going to get some food…” Mel stops her yelling as see she sees me. “Tallie!” Mel gasps, her hand flying to her mouth. Pete is standing just behind her, and his face goes pale as he sees Cas standing there with me in his arms, and I am assuming from the lines on Cas’ forehead and the look on Pete and Mel’s face, that I look like death. “WHAT HAPPENED?”
- ● ●
The next hour is a blur, which I am glad of, because I hate people looking after me. And that is all that happens. The wound on my wing is strapped and treated with an anti-bacterial thingy that burns- which is not a sensation I am used to. More plaster and bandages are wrapped along the shattered bone, but I can already feel it knitting itself back together, which is a weird and painful experience. I am aware that Mel and Cas have left to find a 24hour pharmacy to buy painkillers and whatever else. I am also aware that Cas has not explained what happened, and said he will not until I can fill in the gaps.
They return to find me sat up on the starched white sheets, my hair messy, face pale, in the same bloodstained clothes I got shot in. Cas shoots me a grin over Mel’s shoulder, who rushed to tackle me in a hug the second she comes through the door. Pete also gives me a relieved grin when I laugh and hug Mel back instead of, as I assume he expected me to, his with pain.
“There you go Cas, she’s all better-almost. Now spill. What the hell happened to you two?” Pete finishes in an exasperated voice.
We all sit on the double bed in a circle/square, the way we used to when we were children. It didn’t take us long to find a way onto the roof in Metropolis, and we used to sit up there all night, huddled around a campfire of my making. There is no campfire between us now, and we don’t need it. We are closer than we ever have been before. I remember Pete saying on our first night of fleeing Metropolis, lying side by side under a cloudy sky, when his face was stained with tears and his voice all scratchy, that this plan was either going to unite us forever or disband us.
We recount the tale. How we were trapped down the alleyway, how Cas saw the future and realised that if we were to leave that alleyway, I would be killed, how we thought up a plan, or as Cas put it, “a suicidal plan that had absolutely nothing to do with me”. Then I talk about how I got the fighters into the warehouse, how I set fire to the place, how I got shot, and then Cas talks about how he got to the warehouse, his slightly delayed journey down back alleys and council flats, and then we both pause. Pete and Mel knew that we weren’t worried enough when we returned that we had to move, that there wasn’t people chasing us, and know they are looking at us both, and neither of us have to say anything else, they have already worked it out, yet Cas still does.
“I shot them both. Tallie was on the floor- I didn’t know how badly she was hurt and the two fighters were aiming at her and I shot them.” He rushes his words out, but doesn’t hang his head, instead he lifts his chin slightly.
I open my mouth to speak but Pete gets there first.
“You don’t need to justify yourself Cas, you saved Tallies life, even if she will never admit it” Pete nudges me in the ribs, laughing along with the other two, and I mock glare at him.
“That reminds me”, says Mel, who is still laughing, “we got painkillers and the rest of the stuff.” She points to a boots bag lying on the hotels purple carpet. I grab a pack of painkillers, hoping they will stop the slowly intensifying pounding pain from my wings, which are still folded at my back. As I pull out a sheet of tablets, however, a piece of notepaper flutters to the floor, red lines stark like blood against the bleach white paper. My hands shake as I read the scrawling handwriting.
Ulciscere Manor- north of Bristol.
Welcome to Metropolis the second.
Stay safe, see you soon- Jay.