Stef stared at the gun, then pushed it back toward Curt. ‘I thought I was supposed to be the crazy one.’
He lifted the gun, then dropped it in her lap. ‘Do it. You deserve to do it more than the others.’
‘Others?’ she echoed.
‘If you refuse, well-’ He stopped for a moment. ‘Well, I won’t actually have to make the offer to Ryan, I’m a traitor, I tortured you, you really think my life isn’t forfeit as soon as we go back? And, hell, I’m sure Grigori wouldn’t mind taking a shot at me.’
‘I’m not going to shoot you.’
He took his gun back. ‘You can order me to kill myself, if you’d prefer to watch than to get your hands dirty.’
Her looked hardened. ‘Are you suicidal?’
‘No. I just-’
‘Have you ever contemplated it?’
‘No.’
She snatched his gun away. ‘Then don’t you dare take it so fucking lightly.’ She tucked his gun in her pocket. ‘You don’t deserve an execution, you probably deserve a medal, but I’m not sure we give those out, do we?’
‘On occasion. It’s not the norm though.’
She looked into the room. ‘Where the heck are we anyway?’
He looked up. ‘Mess hall.’
‘Awesome,’ she said, getting to her feet. ‘I’m hungry.’ She walked across the room, and found a stocked fridge in the corner. ‘Hungry?’ she asked as she looked back at him.
He was still sitting against the door, a confused look on his face. ‘You’re…hungry?’
She pulled a large container out, opened the lid and sniffed it. ‘Smells like beef, looks like stew, this’ll do.’ She put it on the small table, spooned it into two bowls sitting on the sink, then put one in the microwave, setting the timer for a minute.
‘Stef?’
‘Yeah?’
‘You’re making stew.’
‘Correction,’ she said as she watched the bowl spin. ‘I’m microwaving stew.’
‘Did healing yourself somehow also make you lose your memories?’
She stared at he countdown. ‘If you’re going to eat, come over here, I’m not carrying it over there.’
‘I almost killed you!’ he screamed.
The microwave dinged, and she put the bowl on the table, put the second one in, and set the timer again. ‘But you didn’t,’ she said. ‘And that’s what counts.’
He put a hand on her shoulder, and she shook it off. ‘Stop touching me,’ she said. ‘I don’t like being touched. It just…freaks me out, ok? I don’t handle it very well. There’s a couple of exemptions, but you aren’t in one of those categories, okies?’
‘Turn around and look at me.’
She did as instructed.
‘I tortured you,’ he said, tears welling up in his eyes. ‘I humiliated you. I left you to die. And you’re…making me stew?’
The microwave dinged, and she nodded. ‘I know,’ she said, ‘I was there.’ She retrieved the bowl, and a couple of spoons from the drawer, then sat at table. ‘Come on, it’ll get cold.’
‘What the hell is wrong with you?’ he asked quietly. ‘You’re-’
‘Insane,’ she supplied. ‘Are you gonna sit, I’ve got eighty-three questions for you.’
He sat, and she pushed a spoon toward him. He ignored the spoon, and the stew. ‘All right, in order,’ he began. ‘Yes I’m sorry. Yes, I’m really sorry. Yes-’
‘Explain exactly what the hell you did,’ she said. ‘I mean, if you knew about my heart, I’m wondering why we didn’t manage to avoid this whole thing.’
‘I needed to confirm with you what I thought was real was the truth, and I couldn’t ask you. I couldn’t say anything.’
‘Why?’
‘Because if they checked the tapes, they would have heard us, and the game would have been up. I needed to…be a Solstice from the get-go. We needed a one in three chance of getting out of here, and if we’d all been captured, we wouldn’t have even had that. I couldn’t fight beside you, then suddenly switch, Solstice trust doesn’t extend that far. Common sense doesn’t stretch that far. And…how was I supposed to know you didn’t have a breastbone? The situation is a lot different when you have to find something to punch through bone than just skin. And Dmitri was another unknown, getting him could have added another layer of difficulty. I panicked and made a decision. It seemed like the only choice at the time.’ He put a hand to his arm, and his fingers came away bloody. ‘I need a towel, hang on.’
She slowly put her hand up her shirt, touched her heart, and wished his arm healed.
He looked to his arm, to her, then tore open the sleeve of his shirt. ‘You?’
‘Do you see another mirror-powered hacker in here?’
‘Thanks, but-’
‘I don’t forgive you,’ she said. ‘Cause, I understand your reasoning, and I don’t begrudge you for it. You’ve got it if you want it, but don’t think there’s anything to forgive you for.’
‘I’m still going to be executed when we get back. I’m still a traitor, and I’m willing to pay the price for that.’
‘Something to do with how you paralysed me?’
‘You-’
‘You aren’t the only one who can work things out, Sherlock.’
He held up his arm and pointed to his wrist. ‘I had a device implanted here. Pure blue, treated with a little bit of time energy so that it didn’t degrade, surrounded by a code-word release capsule.’
‘I think I’m following you.’
‘I spent an obscene amount of money learning the paralysing phrase. It’s floating around on the black market – at one time or another, an agent has revealed it, and it’s been out to use ever since. Only problem is that you can’t use it without being an agent. Or without blue, at least.’
‘So very people would actually be able to make use of it.’
‘Yeah.’
‘Why do you have it in your arm?’
‘I’m not like you around agents. I- One question, if I can have a turn for a minute?’
She chewed on a lump of beef and nodded.
‘Ryan, is he your father? I mean, you said you met him a long time ago, and-’
‘He’s not,’ she said, ‘But he’s pretty much adopted me.’
‘Hm, ok. You’re fine to be around him, he…terrifies me. Here, take my man card, but he does. They…all do. At any time, they have the fight to turn around and shoot me in the head, and so much as I’ll do my duty, I didn’t want to die. I’m prepared to take whatever’s coming to me now, but before this, I figured I’d use it to escape if they ever turned on me.’ He lifted his spoon, and had a few mouthfuls of the stew. ‘So what happens now?’
‘We finish up here, we go home and life goes on.’
‘Stef, didn’t you hear anything I just said?’
‘The thing in your arm, it’s gone now, right?’
He nodded. ‘It was single-use.’
‘So where’s the evidence?’
He stared at her. ‘You can’t just-’
‘The official report of today is going to look nothing like what happened, so what’s one more detail.’
‘I don’t understand.’
‘I’m not going to explain twice, I’ll tell you when we go back down to free Grigori. Follow me lead on that, all right?’
‘Of course ma’am.’
‘Seriously stop that, go back to “newbie”, I’m used to that.’ She stared at him for a moment. ‘I’m gonna ask you something, and it’s going to sound weird, and you don’t have to-’
‘Newbie.’
She stared at her stew. ‘You think we could be friends?’
‘Huh?’
‘Forget it.’
‘No, I mean, sure,’ he said. ‘I’m just wondering why you’re being weird and formal about it.’
‘Because I don’t know how it works. I don’t have a lot of friends. I don’t have…any friends. I mean, I think today lets me skip the pre-approval process, right?’
He held out a hand. ‘Friends.’
She shook his hand, then smiled. ‘Cool.’
‘What were your other seventy-something questions?’
She shrugged. ‘I think I covered everything. You?’
‘Nothing that can’t wait till later, assuming I don’t get executed. Can I ask about the scars though? You get all of that from the mirror?’
‘Car accident,’ she said with a shrug.
‘Shit.’
She gave another shrug. ‘It was ages ago. And no, they don’t hurt when there’s evil around.’
‘Oh, haha.’
She smiled. ‘Ok, let’s go let Grigori out. You think it’s a sin to extort an angel?’