Noise, out of the
Pierces my ears. Someone is talking
Distant. Hazy. Blood loss felt.
“Are you okay?” I laugh at that.
“No. I can’t recall a time when I was.”
It’s the truth, the
To god truth. And I can’t even
Believe that. But it’s true.
“Do you need help?”
“Please just let me bleed out.”
“It sounds like you do
A lot of help.” He unlocks the
Cell door and shuts it behind him.
I press myself into the corner.
“Get away from me.”
“I’m not like them. I won’t
You. It’s okay.” He sits a foot
Away from me. I feel his eyes on my
Face. Despite my instincts,
Pink creeps on my face. Blushing.
“I need to pull these
He gestures to the metal fragments
Left by the bullets. And the pain
That emanates from them,
Through my blood, into my fingertips
And the pain
Me again, when his knife digs in
But only for a few moments
Then it’s just a dull throb and
Fresh blood. A slick red bullet.
He lets it fall to the floor and I
So he can see my shoulder better
He stitches my calf wound.
I get a decent look at him.
I find another blush in my cheeks.
He’s only inches away when he
My shoulder. Fingertips to my
Collarbone. Shivers roll through
My spine. I shouldn’t find him
Attractive. But no one could deny it.
His blue black hair is a little too
In a charming, nonchalant way.
Warm jade-green eyes are
Hands, fine tuned. Strong. Gentle.
Hands that could
Things but prefer to fix them instead.
That push the hair out of your face
And hold up your chin
For a deep kiss, soft. Warm.
A sweet kiss from pinkish
Vibrant with life and hope and love.
I close my eyes shut hard.
He is from Below. He is the enemy.
Then why is he saving me?
He orders. “I need to know
You’re still with me, okay?”
I rub my temple with my good hand.
“Why are you doing this?”
He shrugs, blasé. “It’s the
Thing to do.”
I almost burst out laughing.
What an abstract concept. The
Right thing to do.
I sputter, see if he changes
His mind. “I know that. Why else
Would you be locked in the
Good question. I can’t
He looks at me. “What’s
Your name?” He raises an
Eyebrow and smiles. “I’m
Strata. And you?”
“Not that important, but I’m
Or you can call me whatever.
I don’t really like my name.
It’s too… Weighty, y’know?
It’s been in my family for decades.”
“I like it. It’s good to keep
He shakes his head. “Except
I don’t want to be like the rest of
Them. All they did was kill. To get
Fame, glory. I’m not really about that.”
“Well, maybe you could give it a new
Something better.” I wish I could
Assure him with a touch, kiss.
But what the hell am I thinking?
He is the enemy. A Below. I can’t.
Even more, I
“Please just leave me alone.”
I let my face fall away from him.
His eyes widen. “What’s wrong?
What did I do?”
“Nothing,” I fight tears “It’s what
Did. You don’t understand. I can’t.
You can’t help me. Please.”
He is silent but doesn’t move.
“I’ll fix your shoulder and then
Have to see me again. Okay?”
I nod. He rips out the second
Fragment and stitches slowly.
Not wanting to have to leave, yet.
He reluctantly stands to
He pauses as if to say something
When he reaches for his keys
I talk first, on some bizarre impulse.
“You can come back whenever.”
He turns as to face me.
“Yeah, I’m really sure. I’m sorry
About flipping out on you there.”
“It’s fine. Not a problem, honestly.”
And then he goes. Some
Place inside of me prays that
He will come back. Jace. A name
Stained with blood he tries to
Scrub away. Strata. I soil mine.
Noise, out of the