Time thrums happily in my chest as I lay snuggled up next to Kat. Beneath the sheets, we’re completely nude. Somehow, being skin to skin feels like coming clean about everything lately and I feel very much at ease. I brush her hair back from her face, exposing her neck so I can give her a small kiss. For a brief moment, I wonder how she must feel. Is she as happy as me?
“Kat, are you awake?” I ask her in a soft whisper. She moans with a nod, her eyes still closed as she lays next to me. I sigh. I feel wide awake, how can she be sleeping?!
“Kat, did you… want to talk?” I ask, wanting to disturb the silence.
Her eyes flutter open, meeting my gaze curiously. “Is there something on your mind?”
I smile. “Not in particular. I just, want to talk,” I sit up, combing a hand through her flaming hair. I can’t tell from her expression how she feels. I suppose she’d be happy because if she wasn’t she wouldn’t be here with me. But then… Lately, she’s been doing strange things that would say otherwise. Things I only ever considered after Sam – I mean, Rose left.
“Did you… rest well?” I ask, trying to start a conversation. I’m not sure how to bring it up. She might avoid the topic if I do and I might ruin the mood. I’m not always the best at this.
She smiles. “Yes. I’m glad you’re feeling better again. I love when you smile,” she reaches up, her fingers caressing my cheek softly. “I wondered if I’d ever see it again.”
“Yes, well… It’s hard when you’re not right in the head,” I cringe. “My face hurts from all this smiling,” I try to humour her.
She laughs. “Oh no, you should take a break! I know…” her hand slides around the back of my head, pulling me down toward her gently. She presses her warm lips to mine, stealing my breath away.
I only pull away because of a loud rumbling that comes from my stomach. I frown against her lips. “Sorry about that. Maybe we should have food brought in today, I don’t feel like leaving the bed just yet,” I suggest, against my better nature to cook for her.
“Oh?” she raises her eyebrows with a giggle, “That’s very unlike you.”
“Well… yes. It is. But…” maybe now’s my chance. “You’ve been very unlike you lately too,” I edge in.
She blinks, eyes growing slightly wider. “What do you mean?”
I watch her before I speak, this could be a touchy topic. “Well, I mean, you’re hurting yourself. I’ve only ever seen you get hurt in battle and by… Logan.” I have to start saying his name in order to bring myself to get over him. As much as I hate him and what he did to Kat, I have to try and move past it. He’s gone. He shouldn’t haunt us like he does.
“Since my blunder in Romania, it’s come up often, you trying to hurt yourself as justification for something you felt was your fault,” I frown.
She stares, surprised. “I…” she frowns, her cheeks turning red. “I didn’t think it was that obvious…”
“Well, now that I’ve seen it, it’s plainly obvious. That and… well… stupid Nik might have been trying to hint it to me. I’m just… pretty dense it seems,” I mumble.
She sits up, turning her face away. I spot the little black dragon curled up on the other pillow next to her. “That doesn’t surprise me. He’s eerily perceptive like that, even before I knew who he was.”
“Really? Well, I find him annoying even when he is trying to help. He has this way of rubbing people the wrong way. Maybe it’s just me. But… I guess this time… he’s right. Do you think we could talk about it?” I ask, tilting my head to the side, my hair falling in the same direction.
She glances at me from the side. “I guess… If you really want to.”
I watch her, holding her gaze. “I think I need to. I want you to be happy and if you’re doing this, I think maybe deep down, there’s something not letting you be happy,” I say.
Her head turns, eyes wide and sad. “You make me happy.”
“But earlier, I didn’t. You cut your hands on the blade just because I wouldn’t let you heal me,” I remind her.
She nods slowly, gaze falling to the sheets. “I didn’t know how else to show you how much it hurts to know I burned you,” she mumbles. “I hate that I hurt you so easily.”
“You can say so. You don’t have to show me by hurting yourself. That actually hurts me more.” I try to say calmly. It bothers me to hear this, but I have to be strong for her. I realize now, I have to show her how to handle things, sometimes.
“You weren’t listening,” she pouts.
“I know, I wasn’t, but still. That’s not how you show someone. That makes them feel worse,” I lean closer, trying to get her to look at me.
“What should I have done?” she asks, “I just… You didn’t want me to heal you because you said you deserved the burns. I deserve at least as much for burning you if you deserve the burns for what you did by accident.”
“I wasn’t in my right mind then, Kat. I…” I guess… telling her about the time after Sam left might help her to see. I don’t know how else to make her see sense. I can only tell stories. That’s what I’m good at.
“Can I tell you something? It’s something I’ve never written and I don’t know if Caroline’s ever told you,” I start, leaning back and pulling my knees up under the covers, hugging them.
She turns to look at me. “Of course. You can tell me anything.”
“If I do, I want you to know, you can tell me the same, and… I want you to know this is how irrational I was, at the time,” I warn her. I don’t want her thinking this is ok. Caroline made me see it wasn’t. Kat needs to see this too.
“Okay,” she shifts to sit facing me, the sheets wrapping around her hips and leaving her chest bare. I bite the inside of my lip, trying to keep my emotions in check. This is a serious topic.
“Well, now that you know about Rose, you know that when she left me, I might not have remembered everything about her, but it was still a dark time for me. It took me a long time to get over her leaving, I think maybe two or three years. Until Kaede met Caroline.
“I remembered the feelings and I had that note she left me. I didn’t understand why she’d left. It never told me how she was feeling. I felt so used, but I had also loved her. I kind of stopped talking to my parents. I dropped out of school because of my more frequent jump and I moved out eventually, bunking with Kaede until he got into University. I just needed to get out of that house and away from my parents.
“I don’t even know if Kaede knows, but when I was living with him, I wasn’t in school so I would work odd jobs to get by, but even that wasn’t helping get my mind off things. I started living with risks. I didn’t realize it at first, but I did things like Jaywalking at busy intersections, going out late at night in the bad parts of towns.
“Even when I found myself in the past, I would leave myself vulnerable, not wearing the armour that my captain gave me and choosing the most skilled fighter to combat.
“I also kind of stopped eating. I didn’t feel like cooking and what not. I found myself staring at nothing for hours, stuck in my own thoughts. I had no motivation to do anything I used to enjoy. My jumping became sort of… more erratic. I didn’t really realize it then, but looking back at my jumps from that time, I notice now that they were more frequent, for shorter intervals and taking me to more dangerous situations then I used to previously show up in,” I pause, looking up from my knee to see if she’s still listening.
She watches intently, as fascinated as she usually is when I tell her stories of my jumps.
“That’s how I got most of these more… dangerous looking scars. But, when Kaede started dating Caroline, she noticed it right away. You know how she is. Caroline can have a blunt way of pointing out the obvious. She called me out on it and of course, I denied every bit of it. But, something about what she said bothered me, or at least… it stuck with me.
“This was before I started telling her I actually had magic, which, as you know, she never believed until you came around. She said I must have a death wish and that if I was going to have any chance finding love again I’d have to get my head out of the grave. She said, and I quote, ‘What girl would date a guy trying to get himself killed?’
“It’s funny, now that I think about it. But, that comment really bothered me. It made me see that putting myself in dangerous situations wasn’t going to impress a girl; It would turn them off. I sort of changed after that, with her help. She helped me see that what I was doing was wrong on so many levels, all because of one girl.
“I guess… that because of that, I sort of had a crush on her, despite her being Kaede’s girl. I kept telling her about my magic and she never believed me, so I took it as a personal challenge to prove it to her until she believed me,” I chuckle, slightly amused about the whole thing now.
Kat scoffs a laugh. “I knew it. The way you talked about her and looked at her when we met. It was obvious.”
“What?! Caroline? That’s beside the point, Kat,” I purse my lips, a little embarrassed. Was she really listening to what I just said?
She shrugs with a smug smile. “I know. Just pointing it out. That’s why I was so surprised when you kissed me the first time. I thought you were totally in love with her.”
“Yes… well,” she brings the memory back and I feel like it was yesterday. “I may have had a playful crush on her, but there was something different about you. You drew me in, somehow. It was like…” I struggle to find the words to convey what it was really like. “I was like a moth to a flame… or something. That sounds stupid. The point I’m trying to make is you made me feel something I hadn’t felt in a really long time. I couldn’t pinpoint it, but I really really liked you,” I blush. I feel like I’m a kid making a confession.
She tilts her head, pursing her lips in thought. “Would you have thought different of me if you knew that I was as reckless as you had been before?”
“You mean back then? I’m not sure. I might have been able to relate. I don’t think that would make me love you less though. I want to help you, like Caroline, helped me. I don’t want you to end up finding a way that actually does kill you. We both know there is a way because Ceph and Elias don’t survive. We have their element, so… there has to be a way to kill a Guardian. I’d rather not find out by accident,” I say.
“I know what would kill me,” she frowns, “I don’t even want to think about what it would take to kill you. I can’t.”
I tilt my head, curious. “You know?” I feel a slight feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach. What could kill time? Would she know, the Time Master?
“You know too. Drowning can kill me, easily. It might be the only way, to be honest, short of another Guardian’s magic,” she shrugs, her eyes drifting to the desk, where the letters are stacked in a pile.
“Her magic, it’s different. It seems to leave a lasting effect too. So our elements opposite is our weakness. But… then, what’s the opposite of time?”
“I don’t know,” she answers honestly. “I don’t know if there is one.”
“Maybe Ceph would know,” I think aloud. “So, anyway, do you see what I was trying to say, about how hurting yourself just hurts others more… and stuff?”
Her amber eyes bore into mine and I can almost see her thoughts spinning. She takes a deep breath and turns her gaze downward. “I don’t want to die. Not really. When I ran away, I did things, like you said, recklessly, but I think somewhere inside I wasn’t ready. The fire knew too. It wouldn’t let me,” she starts to explain, hesitating. I get the feeling there’s more.
“It wouldn’t let you? How?” I ask her, curiously.
Her eyes flicker to mine, a hint of fear in them. “When Nik found me… That wasn’t the first time I’d been attacked while I was out there. By then I was just too weak to fight back, but there were several others that tried,” she chews her lip.
“What do you mean? Other people would be trying to kill you? Or…” I don’t really want to say it. I don’t want to guess and be right. But… did the fire… I let my thoughts trail off, waiting for the answer.
“Some of them tried to kill me, others to rob, and others…” she stops herself. “Well, I don’t think I need to say it. They failed. I was too afraid to let them kill me. I wanted to come home. I wanted to come back, but the longer I was out there… I thought you deserved more than what I was. What I am,” she sighs wistfully.
My heart twists at her words, but I remain strong for her. She’s finally telling me about it. No more secrets. “It sounds terrifying. I can understand why you might have been so afraid. I’m sorry. I’m sorry I couldn’t come to you sooner. I’m sorry I was… away when you left. Maybe I could have stopped you.”
She shakes her head. “No, you don’t understand. I wasn’t afraid of them. They’re not strong enough to pose a threat to me,” she looks down at her chest. “One was stupid enough to try a firearm. When it didn’t stop me, the look of terror on his face… I’m not afraid of them; I’m afraid of myself. What I’m capable of. I thought if you had any idea… I’m still not sure you could love me if you knew. If you had seen,” she stares out the window, lost in the memory.
“Kat…” I hate to see her so conflicted. I guess… is this anything like I felt yesterday? No, I think it’s worse. The ticking seems to squeak by as if the gears are too tight. I lean forward, dropping my knee. “I am not afraid of you. I am not afraid of your fire. It’s what I love about you. Fear can make you do things you don’t want to. I’ve seen that in the past, in my jumps.”
“I killed them,” she whispers hoarsely. “All of them. Every single one.”
I freeze as she speaks. It shouldn’t bother me. I don’t want it to. Fear drove her, how can I blame her for that? I can’t. Fear has driven many to kill… including Rose. I reach my hand out to her, wanting to feel her; she brings me comfort when we touch. “Kat, that doesn’t make me hate you. I can… understand.”
She looks down at my hand, hot tears drip onto my skin. “No. You wouldn’t be you if you could. You wouldn’t kill people so easily, even if they were trying to hurt you,” she smiles bitterly.
“The me that’s in front of you might not, if I could help it, but I’ve killed in the past. I had to in order to survive. That’s why I can say that now,” I insist.
She looks up slowly to meet my gaze again. “I would do it again. I know I would; especially if it was you they came for. I don’t know if I could stop myself,” she takes a ragged breath. “Would you hate me if I killed her?”
My mind spins with the question, the weight of what she’s saying. I don’t think I could hate Kat if she killed again, not if it was to save me. No, the thing that concerns me most now is whether or not Sam, Rose deserves death. She’s done horrible things that are certainly unforgivable, but can I say that those crimes are deserving of death? Can I be the one to condemn her? Knowing now, the history that we’ve shared, I find myself conflicted.
Before reading the letters and getting my memories back, I wouldn’t have protested at the suggestion at all, but now… I find it difficult to sort my thoughts. She’s hurt Kat and I more than we both deserve, all for selfish reasons… but… Is that really her fault? I still feel somewhat responsible for what’s happened to her, that and… from what I read, she seemed to have been influenced by her magic. Does that give her an excuse though?
Kat waits for an answer and I feel pressured to come up with one, but I still don’t know what to say. “I can’t say I would approve it, but… I can understand why. I know we have power, being Guardians, and this power, it can make us think that we have the right to deal out judgment, but… I wonder… do we really have a say? Or is that taking the law into our own hands?”
“What law?” she asks. “Who do you think governs us? What authorities can we go to and tell them she stabbed me with a dark magic blade, almost killed me and our child, but I miraculously survived?”
“We’re certainly not educated enough to say. We are biased about the situation. There has to be a court… or… some council that makes this decision. Not us,” I propose.
She shakes her head slowly. “There’s not. No one outranks a Guardian. That’s why we’re rare and revered. We’re supposed to govern and protect them. That’s how it was written. They established a council within the Guild after the Guardians died off. They have no authority over us now.”
“If we’re supposed to protect them, then who’s supposed to protect us? We can’t just go around killing each other. We have to come up with some sort of… law, rules that even we have to follow. Like oaths. This way we could prevent things like personal vendettas from happening,” I argue.
She looks at me, baffled. “The only reason I exist is because of a personal vendetta. I’m supposed to be the hammer. Remember?”
“How we are born into the world and become Guardians shouldn’t colour our opinions of how we’re to maintain order. We have to be objective.”
“How exactly do you propose we do that? Do you think we’re just going to get Markus and Mortecai and her to all sit down and agree we really should stop all this silly fighting?” she asks sarcastically.
“Yes! Why not?” I say heavily. Why can’t we just talk through all these problems? It only takes time to sort out disagreements.
She rolls her eyes. “Maybe because she still wants me dead. Are you willing to risk meeting her, knowing what she’s done and what she’s capable of?”
“Well, maybe we could meet on common ground. What if there was a way to nullify our magic in a specific place. Everyone present. If we were all together, unable to attack with our magic and agreed to talk, maybe we could come to some sort of understanding!” I explain.
Kat stares back at me with a fire in her eyes. “That’s not a risk I’m willing to take for either of us,” she climbs off the bed, pulling on her jeans. “I’ll talk with anyone else when she’s dead.”
I gawk, hand hanging in the air as she leaves. Why can’t we talk? Why does everything have to end in fighting? I don’t get it. This whole topic, it’s… way too complicated to just come up with an answer to it now. It needs time… it needs… Maybe I could talk to her about it, the Master of Time. I sigh, letting my hand drop to the sheets.
“Kat… I wouldn’t hate you if you did. All I’m saying is maybe we shouldn’t resort to killing her if we don’t have to. Maybe there’s some other way for her to pay for her crimes. Is that not more reasonable than simply signing off a death sentence? We both know how that went down in France with me,” I add sternly.
Her head snaps and she looks at me with anger I’ve never seen. They look…different somehow. Glowing, and catlike. “You know this is not the same. I’m not condemning her for being a witch. I’ll kill her for trying to kill our baby. If that’s not enough of a reason, I don’t know what is.”
“An eye for an eye isn’t how the world works. You should know better than that,” I frown from the bed. She seems different somehow. Did I really just see that?
“Maybe,” Her hand rests on her belly. “But I don’t care. We’re not going anywhere near her, and that’s that,” she states with finality, putting on a bra. “I’ll go to the kitchen. Tell me what you want.”
I growl under my breath, frustrated with how stubborn she can be sometimes. This isn’t right. I can’t agree but I really don’t want to argue. I should just drop it, deal with it later. I shake my head, trying to dispel the thoughts. I didn’t want to leave the bed, but I would rather get some of my anger and frustration out in cooking. Maybe it will help me relax. “Don’t bother. I’ll come with you,” I offer.
“Scoria,” she calls out in a commanding tone once she’s fully dressed. The dragon’s head perks up and she leaps off the pillow, landing ungracefully on Kat’s shoulder. Kat picks up her phone and slides it into her back pocket as her other hand scratches at the chin of the baby dragon. She gets this look on her face, almost as if it were her own.
I frown, pouting. I crawl off the bed, letting the sheets fall without caring this time. I’m too riled up to care in front of her. I go to the closet, looking for a clean shirt. I pull on the black jeans and slip on a new pair of socks. Once I’m dressed I turn to her, the ticking in my chest a little staccato, almost as if it were annoyed. Great. Double annoyed. Just what I need.
I lead the way into the hall, not in the mood to space skip. As we head down the hall something green flash. In seconds, it’s upon us and I duck, hands over my head in confusion. I hear a screech of delight as a familiar face barrels into me.
“Andiiiii!” Ylenia screams as she hits me with all her seven-year-old energy. Behind her, I spot Kira walking down the hall with Mom. My jaw drops, surprised. I didn’t expect this. I go to answer but suddenly, Ylenia’s gone, grabbing Kat by the arm and dancing around her, bouncing on the balls of her feet and chanting her name.
“Kitty!!! Come have dinner with us! You can sit next to me!!” she says with way too much excitement. The larger green dragon seems to hover in the air around Kat, sniffing at Scoria, who is peeking out from beneath her hair.
“Uh,” Kat looks between the dragon and Ylenia, blinking as she tries to process both situations. “Dinner?”
“Yeah!! Daddy’s cooking! Come, eat dinner with us!” she demands, rather than asks. Mom and Kira arrive from down the hall, an amused look on mom’s face as she watches the exchange.
“We thought you could use a break from cooking, so I came to get you for dinner. Dad’s making pizza. Handmade,” she smiles. We all know dad’s handmade dough is the best. My mouth is already watering. Kat looks up at her, eyes wide. Her gaze shifts to me with a question.
“Sure, we’d love dinner,” I give mom a smile.
By Kayla West