I searched the files before I left, just to see. So many of my friends... I hadn't heard from them in a while, and it was scaring me. Fabi's house had been attacked, I knew that much. I had no doubt Mevolent was making his move. I didn't even want to think about what he could be doing if he had taken them... At least my family was safe, for the time being. They were just mortals; no one had any reason to go after them.
"You're crazy, you know." There was bitterness in Croatoan's voice. As long as I'd known him he had never shown an emotion like that. It was shocking, to say the least. Concerning, almost.
"I know," I said softly, and paused for a moment. Biterness. Was he... Worried? The more I thought about it, the more it made sense, but... Really? Niccolo Croatoan.... Worried? "Are you... Well, I mean, you're not..." He was pacing in between the trees at our makeshift campsite.
"Spit it out," He commanded, his stride unbroken. I laid a hand on his shoulder and turned him to face me.
"You're not worried, are you?" I smiled tightly- a smile that didn't quite reach the rest of my face. Our eyes met.
"Aretha Tesla..." He trailed off. He never did that. My fake smile flickered on and off like the fire we stood around.
"Oh my God." The smile faded. "Why? I- I've fought vampires and werewolves and serial killers and you've nearly seen my die in front of you too many times for me to count-"
"Nearly." He cut me off, "That's the whole point. Nearly. Look, I can save you from any time of monster you can think of- but Mevolent? Truth is, I just don't know if I could pull you out in time." There was something unidentifiable in his eyes. All I could do was stare. This man... He would kill without a second thought. I knew that. There was no one on this Earth that he cared about. But now, quite possibly, with the exception of me.
I woke up on a cold, stone floor. Every bit of me ached. I felt a familiar, salty taste on my lips- blood. Whose? The last thing I remembered, I was stalking my way through a corridor in Mevolent's hideout. I ran my hands over my face; it was covered in long scratches. Thankfully, none too deep. The darkness in that cell was so thick that I literally couldn't see past my own nose, but I felt pain. I felt raw. And I felt wet... Like I was covered in a light sheen of liquid. Sweat? Maybe. I tentatively licked my arm. More blood. I didn't have more time to investigate, however; I felt a gentle hand brush against my back, and in the blink of an eye trees were around me, and a warm fire flicked in my face. Croatoan. Of course.
"Thank you," I murmured, my voice smaller than I remembered it.
"I can heal you- you'll live, but you're going to be covered in scars." He brushed off my gratitude easily.
"He found you. And..." He trailed off again. "Why in Hell are you so determined to sacrifice your life for everyone else's?"
"I-" A coughing fit cut me off... I was coughing up blood. He immediately shushed me and moved me so I was sitting with my back propped up against a tree. He was actually being... Gentle... Way too many firsts in one day.
"Just shut up, will you?" And I sat perfectly silent and still as he got to work healing me. "Amazing..." He murmured, probably trying to distract me from the pain, "All this and you never said a word. He asked about your friends, the Sanctuary... And nothing. At least you really messed up his day." He was being as gentle as he could, but some of those scratches were really deep, and I was tired, and pretty soon the world faded into black.