“Time of Reconciliation ... Time of Rebalancing.
Reason over Emotion.
Reinforcement of the Sacred Bound between those who walk the Path.
The Moon, in the Sky, is Full and Bright.”
- The Prophet of Truth
“Yes, I understand. No. Just tell her that Sarah Wilson from the Hillman Center called. No, thank you. Have a nice day.”
Sarah hung up the cell phone and took a brief look at the task list she’d compiled on her organizer. According to the University, Deborah Rayleigh had suspended all her supervising activities for an undetermined period of time, precisely ten days ago. Which coincided perfectly with Alexis' escape and the destruction of the clandestine laboratory. However, there were some who said she still showed up early in the morning, before working hours.
Being the renowned scientist she was, it was only natural that Deborah would have free access to the laboratory where her research team worked, not to mention to a vast variety of equipment. Sarah suspected that that’s how she’d managed to equip the lab she’d seen in that warehouse. Deborah knew all the suppliers and where to go. And if Farran enjoyed the same free access to money that Aaran and Alexis seemed to have, then paying for all that shouldn’t have been a problem.
On the other hand, since Deborah kept showing up at the University even though she was probably aware that Alexis and the others were looking for her, that could only mean she was using the University’s laboratory, now that her own had been destroyed. And Sarah could only think of the cryo-preservation unities, where they normally kept biologic samples gathered in the course of experiments. Biologic samples needed to be kept in certain specific conditions so that they wouldn’t deteriorate, and from what little she’d seen from Debora’s lab in that warehouse, she didn’t remember seeing any conservation unities there. Besides, keeping them in the University also guaranteed their safety, she thought. At least that’s what she would have done, in her place. She’d never risk keeping such precious samples in some warehouse that could, at any moment, be discovered by the authorities or even by Aaran and the others. The most intelligent thing to do would be to keep them next to other samples, since they’d surely go unnoticed, making it harder for others to find them.
In any way, and according to all the data she’d managed to gather, the only way to catch Deborah would be to anticipate her moves and be at the University waiting for her, the next morning. The fact that Alexis still hadn’t been able to find her probably meant that the rebels were protecting her during the night. However, during daytime, Deborah should feel safer, and from what she remembered from her college days, her obstinate personality would almost certainly lead her to try and continue with her work. After all, Deborah knew about Alexis Race’s weaknesses better than anyone and that, unlike the rebels, those under Aaran’s command didn’t establish close relationships with Human Beings that might help them during the day.
“Well, let’s just hope she still remembers her old classmate,” she sighed closing her organizer.
It was still hard to believe.
Even though, like it had happened with most her classmates, she’d never been especially close with Deborah, she could still remember all the projects they’d developed together. And yes, there had been some fun moments that now made part of some of her best College memories. Sarah had always admired her professionalism and rigor. She knew Deborah was amongst the best of her field of investigation and that she was completely dedicated to her work. But to consider her able of torture …
A small barking sound made her frown in an intrigued expression and Sarah stood up, crossing the bedroom towards the corridor.
“Ah! Hold him, Anne! Don’t let him get away!” she heard Selena’s voice and the sound of running water led her to the bathroom at the end of the corridor. “Come on, little one. Behave. Just a bit more.”
“Careful that it doesn’t get soap in its eyes,” Anne warned and Sarah pushed the door open, peering inside.
“What’s going on?” she asked, seeing has they were both kneeling on the floor, near the bathtub, leaning inside.
The water ran loudly, warming up the air. Walking a bit closer she saw the small pup inside the bathtub, its brown fur completely wet glued to its bones, as it tried to fight for its dear life with all its strength.
“Come on, Sarah, he’s a dog, obviously,” Selena replied running her hands across the poor animal’s back to wash away the soap, while Anne tried to keep it still, holding it by the fur at the back of its neck.
“I can see what it is. Where did it come from?”
“Miss Selena found it outside, early this morning.”
“Outside?!” Sarah repeated, her voice a pitch higher, and Selena turned off the water, pulling a towel from the rack, where she wrapped the small animal, picking it up.
“I was in the backyard, watering the plants, when I heard him yelp. Right?” she chanted, looking at the small animal nestled in her arms with a delighted smile. “He was starving.”
“It’s just a pup,” Anne observed, softly caressing its head. “It must’ve been weaned not long ago.” The small pup licked its muzzle leaving a new smile on Selena’s face.
“Isn’t he lovely?” Selena asked, gluing her face to the small dog’s head and Sarah sighed, guessing what would inevitably follow.
“Yes, lovely. But we have to return it, Selena.”
“Oh, but why? He’s just a baby!” she protested protectively and Sarah took a deep breath.
“Because there’s probably someone looking for it.”
“What if he’s been abandoned? What then? He’s so small. He’ll just die if we send him to a kennel,” she argued with all her power of persuasion and Sarah couldn’t help feeling sorry for the small animal.
“Also, you can’t forget that this isn’t our house,” she reminded her although she couldn’t help thinking about how cute the small animal was as it licked her sister’s face. “Maybe we can go and get him once …” her voice broke off. Once what? Once they returned home? Returning to that apartment meant being even farther away from Alexis, and the idea alone was enough to leave her suddenly frozen inside.
“I’ll ask Aaran to keep him!” Selena decided.
“You know, Selena … this is Alexis’ home. Maybe you should ask him.”
“Hum, if Aaran agrees then Alexis won’t say no,” she declared without the shadow of a doubt, half surprising her sister. “Anyway, I haven’t seen Alexis since we came back from the airport. I wonder if you’re keeping him tied up, somewhere in the house,” she added maliciously and Sarah felt her cheeks catch on fire.
“Selena!” she reprimanded her, but the girl pretended she hadn’t heard. And, with a smile, held the small pup, raising it in front of her face.
“Hum, you have blue eyes like the sky. So that’s what I’ll call you, Sky,” she decided as if she was absolutely certain that her request to keep it wouldn’t be denied, and Sarah sighed heavily, knowing that her sister was probably right. Somehow Aaran seemed to have a weak spot for her innocent, lost child-like act. If he only knew just how stubborn and a sore loser she really was. Selena was just too used to get her own way.
They spent the rest of the day around Sky.
Anne quickly arranged a corner in the kitchen to accommodate the small puppy, where she improvised a litter and a bowl, assuring Selena that, after lunch, she’d go buy something a bit more appropriate. Sarah found herself completely surrendering to the small animal’s charms; to the way its innocent happiness filled the air as he looked up at the Humans trying to help him. Unavoidably she couldn’t help remembering Ocean, and the countless times he had transmitted her similar emotions. Besides, Selena’s joyful expression was priceless and she inevitably started to think that keeping the small animal around wasn’t probably such a bad idea.
She was so amused by Sky’s and Selena’s play, crawling all over the kitchen floor, that she jumped as her cell phone’s alarm rang. Hurrying to press the button she confirmed that, as expected, it was already three o’clock in the afternoon.
“What is it? Something wrong?” Selena asked, looking up at her with a suddenly serious expression, and Sarah smiled to reassure her.
“No, nothing much, I just have a call to make and didn’t want to forget about it,” she told her, jumping from the stool where she’d been sitting, and Selena sat on her heels.
“You’re not going out, right?” she asked, unable to hide her concern, and Sarah just shook her head, looking for a sharp knife among Anne’s collection. She was grateful that the nice woman wasn’t around, or she’d never allowed her to simply kidnapped one of her knifes without a good explanation. “Oh, I see. You’re just going to murder someone,” the girl concluded and Sarah picked up a knife, turning it in her hands. That would do. It was relatively small but sharp enough for what she had in mind.
“Naa, hope it won’t come to that,” she replied, joking. “I’m just going to try and put some sense in someone’s hard, thick head.”
“Hum … Really! One does have to be rather special to be able to date you,” Selena observed sarcastically, picking Sky up that, with its tail flapping back and forth, didn’t lose the opportunity to lick her face. “Be careful not to chop off something you may later want to use again.”
“You’re terrible, you know?” Sarah asked with a critical expression. “And to think you were such a cute, lovely child, always wanting to sit on my lap and filling me with sticky kisses,” she declared in a faked melancholic tone and Selena smiled at Sky’s blue eyes.
“That was because back then you needed me sitting on your lap. Now you don’t need me anymore,” Sarah opened her mouth to contest but the right words just wouldn’t come out. She was right, she thought. Back then Selena had been her lifeline. The girl looked at her with a mischievous expression. “But don’t worry. I still love you the same,” she added. “And now go. Go chop your loved one to pieces. If you need help getting rid of the body I’m sure Sky can volunteer, taking into account the amount of food he gulped down although he’s still this small,” she observed critically and Sarah snorted, turning her back on her. Still the smile on her face persisted until she reached the door, at the living room’s far end.
The moment she stepped inside the shadow keeping guard over the stairway, her happiness seemed to dilute and a freezing weight filled her stomach. Making sure that no second thoughts made her turn back, Sarah raised her head and went on, reassuring herself that what she was about to do was the right thing.
Careful not to wake Alexis, she entered the room with silent footsteps. As expected he was deep asleep. At that time of day, when the sun was highest in the sky, his sleep was just too heavy, and so he didn’t even move as she drew closer, kneeling on the bed right beside him.
A loving smile stretched her lips at the sight of his calm sleeping expression. His black hair was spread over the pillow like thin, shiny shadows. His relaxed face seemed even younger, his long, dark eyelashes casting shadows over his pale skin.
Sarah raised a shaky hand, and with her heart beating anxiously for fear he might wake up, pressed her index finger against his lips, making them part. He remained asleep. And with a sigh of relief Sarah finally understood why he made sure no one could ever go downstairs. It was almost scary the way he was now completely exposed and defenseless, and being aware that right then even someone like her could easily kill him left a bitter taste in her mouth.
Forcing her mind to return to her main purpose, Sarah closed her left hand around the blade of the knife she’d brought and, taking a deep breath, quickly pulled it down. She had to clench her teeth hard not to scream in pain, and her eyes were brimming with tears in a matter of seconds. Cutting her hand hurt a lot more than she’d anticipated, and she mentally insulted all the cinematographic directors that made their actors pretend to cut themselves like that, with a serene, tranquil expression on their faces. When she expelled the air she no longer could keep in her lungs the pain reached her heart, and she had to bite down the back of her other hand to keep quiet. Even so, she raised her arm, not daring to open her wounded hand, and placed her clenched fist over his parted lips so that the drops of blood sliding down her skin would fall in his mouth. For an instant she thought everything would be all right, that his sleep was so heavy that he wouldn’t wake up. But then she could clearly feel it, the moment the shock hit him, leaving her breathless.
Alexis held her wrist in one quick, fast movement, squeezing it so hard that it hurt, his eyes suddenly opened, gleaming ferociously although still unable to see her. His face contorted into a grimace and he tried to get up, but his own body, too heavy and sluggish, refused to obey, and he fell back again.
“Sarah! What are you doing?” he demanded in a growl and she braced herself against his chest so she wouldn’t fall over him when he pulled her by her arm.
“You’re hurting me,” she complained with a tearful voice, which seemed to calm him down a bit, and he released part of the iron strength with which he was grabbing her wrist.
“What are you doing??” His voice, however, sounded increasingly angry, and she could clearly feel his fury surround her in what she would have considered a terrifying way just a few days ago.
“You have to drink, Alexis.”
“No!” he roared again and Sarah wiped the tears sliding down her face. She kept her wounded hand closed and the blood was now sliding down her wrist, tainting his fingers.
“Why not? You know it’s the only way you’ll recover your sight,” she argued and he frowned with a severe expression.
“Alexis … It’s something that I want to do! Let me help you!” she insisted and he turned his face away. Inside him guilt and self-contempt were one again and Sarah softly caressed his face, somehow feeling sad with herself. “Please? I’m always worrying, every time you leave at night, knowing that you’ll be at a disadvantage should you meet one of the others. And it hurts me knowing I’m to blame for your loss …”
“The choice was, and still is, mine!” he retorted dryly and Sarah sighed.
“I want to give you back your sight. I’m doing this of my own free will and of my own accord,” she argued and he seemed surprised by her words, as if he’d just now realized the true meaning of her actions. “Why is it so wrong for you to accept what I’m offering? Or are you afraid Aaran might be right? And that I may not be your true Hridaya?”
“You are my Hridaya, Sarah!” he declared with absolute certainty, turning towards her as if it were indispensable to convince her as well, and his fingers trembled as another drop of blood reach them. “I have more than enough proof. Even if I could doubt my own feelings I could never doubt who you are.”
“Then …” she went on, caressing his skin, drawing his eyebrows with her fingers as if that could erase the deep frown marking his forehead. “Heal my wound, Alexis,” she whispered softly. “If you could see, you’d see that it’s bleeding quite badly. Besides it really hurts. The stupid guy that thought that cutting hands with knives would be heroic or romantic was truly an idiot!” she complained and smiled softly as she could tell by his expression he was wavering. “Do it for me, if not for yourself.”
He sighed, and, although his anger still filled the room, he pulled her hand to his lips and started to lick the drops of blood running down her wrist. Closing his eyes he followed the crimson lines painted over her skin, licking all the blood away until he reached her trembling fist, such was the force she was using to keep it closed.
“Open your hand, Sarah …” he murmured and she forced her hardened fingers to obey.
“Ouch!” she complained when he traced her cut with his tongue but the pain seemed to diminish almost instantaneously.
Alexis frowned, holding her arm with both hands, gluing the palm of her hand to his lips, sucking her skin hungrily. Sarah felt her heart jump, beating harder on her wound. The wave of heat and pleasure that filled him left her apprehensive, for an instant, until she noticed his expression. He did as she’d asked, but did so against his will, feeling disgusted with himself. And although seeing him drink her blood was something that should sicken her, or even evoke memories that she was trying very hard to keep forgotten, as she looked at him she couldn’t help thinking he was simply amazingly beautiful.
Alexis stopped as soon as he knew he’d taken enough to assure the restoration of his eyesight and, when he released her, her hand was completely clean and the wound practically healed.
Sarah looked at her hand and couldn’t help feel intrigued by the silver line that, crossing the reddened traumatized area, marked her new scar. However, when she turned to him with the question on her lips, she found him facing away from her, once again.
Disheartened by the pain she had lit inside him, Sarah took a deep breath, pulling back, and decided it was better to leave him alone. The hand that held her stopped her from getting up and she looked back, pleasantly surprised.
“Stay,” he told her and she couldn’t help the exulting smile that took over her lips.
“I’m not going to ask for forgiveness for what I’ve done,” she thought it better to clarify and Alexis sighed deeply, rolling to his side so that he could face her.
“Really, I’d be truly surprised if you did.”
She leaned over him and placed a kiss on his cheek.
“It’s still early and you need to rest,” she argued but he still wouldn’t let go.
“Stay. I want you to be the first thing I see when my sight returns.”
Sarah was left at a loss for words. Damn, who could ever argue against something like that?
“Hum, I don’t know. You have a terrible awakening and you really need to rest,” she quickly replied and the frown marking his forehead became a bit lighter.
“You’re right,” he conceded, kissing her hand, and finally released her.
“Unless you let me tie you up,” she maliciously suggested and he raised an eyebrow seeming amused by the idea.
“Tie me up? And what good would that do? You’d hardly be able to keep me tied up for long.”
“But maybe it would give me enough time to escape the big bad wolf.”
“That I am.”
“Very well, then. Do as you please. As long as that means you’ll remain by my side, I don’t mind. Besides, right now, I just feel too tired to even move, much less argue,” he added with a sigh and Sarah laughed, pushing him so that he’d lie on his back. She then straddled him, pinning his hands against the pillow above his head, and smiled.
“Well this is rather amusing,” she declared before his inability to react, and Alexis slightly opened his eyes, only enough to show her he was still awake.
“Only this? And here I was thinking that you’d go and get yourself some handcuffs, or at least some chains with lockets,” he added and Sarah couldn’t help notice the slight bitter tone in his voice. Her smile disappeared instantaneously and she released his hands that, even so, remained unmoving.
“Never,” she murmured caressing his tattooed face. How was it possible that she adored him so much?
“But that’s the only way to safely lock away big bad wolves,” Alexis replied and Sarah pressed two fingers against his lips, silencing him.
“Never,” she repeated and he licked her fingers, returning her smile to her lips.
“Then the big bad wolf might actually bite you,” he threatened, although his tone was lower and warmer, and she drew his smile with the tips of her fingers.
“It’s okay. I rather let him bite me. Because this big bad wolf is just too beautiful to be locked away. He is a free spirit, wild and ferocious. And although he might be dangerous at times, he is also very kind and warm.”
“Hum, I’m starting to get jealous,” he declared and Sarah hit him lightly, reprimanding him as she laughed. She was suddenly silent when his arms surrounded her, pulling her closer into his warm embrace. “Thank you, Sarah …” were his last words before he fell asleep.