I laid on the cold ground of the cell, frozen to the spot. There was no way on Earth this could be happening. I would say I was dreaming, but I know the difference. Maybe I was hearing things. Or maybe it was a trick- but how could it be? No one else has a voice like that, and even if someone had copied it, how would they know what he sounds like, or what he would say? No one even knew he existed! There was just no way...
"I know you're not sleeping- you've almost stopped breathing altogether. Are you ignoring me on purpose, or are you really that excited to see me?" He spoke again. God, I had missed the sound of his voice... I pulled myself into a sitting position, facing the sound- even before I lifted my head, I recognized the long, worn-out coat. And when I shook my short hair out of my face, his dark eyes were staring straight into mine.
"H-how..." I muttered weakly, still afraid to get my hopes up. Slowly I reached a hand out of the cell- shaking slightly from the after-effect of exhaustion and my shock at seeing him alive- and lightly grasped the black collar of his coat. I could actually feel the worn leather between my fingers. Now I was certain I wasn't seeing things. I let my hand drift over his shoulder, then down and back up part of his arm, still trying to wrap my head around the fact that he was real and here and tangible.
"You have your friend Death Rose to thank for this. She has some connections that aren't half bad."
"Are you trying to make me feel bad?"
"Now, why would you acuse me of that? You sound more like yourself now than you have in days. It's rather concerning, to be honest- you went and did exactly what I told you not to do. You lost your soul. I'm just bringing it back."
"No," I said suddently, my voice growing more hollow, "You can't. I... I'm still only Mevolent's puppet... I'll kill you..." I let my hand drop from his shoulder- once I thought about it, I was surprised he hadn't pulled away the moment I touched him. Probably because he was trying to get me to act like myself again.
"If you're really going to kill me, why haven't you tried anything yet?" Niccolo sounded almost triumphant, like he had found the answer to some great mystery. It was a good question, though. And I knew he wouldn't speak again until I had answered.
"Um... Is it because... My magic is bound?"
"Exactly- but it's not just your magic that's being bound, is it? That binding spell is a symbol of power- it's dependent on magic." I could sort of see where he was going with this, but it didn't seem possible- maybe I looked too skeptical for him to leave it at that, so he contiued, "Areha, when your magic is bound, you're free." He stated it like it was so obvious, but also like he expected me to give him a treat or something for figuring it out.
"So you're saying all I have to do is stay in this cell? I mean, that's great, but it's not like I could hurt anyone from in here anyway..."
"No," He countered, standing swiftly, "A cell isn't the only thing that'll keep your magic bound. You, of all people, should know this." He strode towards the wall in the corner where it met the floor, pulled out a loose stone, and recovered a key that had been hidden behind it.
"How long has that been here for?" I asked, a hint of concern creeping into my voice. If prisoners were escaping from the Sanctuary, she would have to make sure it stopped... Wow, I thought to myself, I'm already back to thinking like I have free will. I didn't think I'd ever be able to manage that again, and he just waltzes in and it's already happening...
"Don't worry- it hasn't been there long. I stole and hid it while I was delaying all of your flights, before Mevolent actually started using you for murder. I figured sooner or later you'd likely end up in here." I notied that he said 'Mevolent used you' rather than 'you started killing people'. It was nice, I suppose, but still didn't help all that much.
He unlocked the door and then locked himself in with me rather than letting me out. I held out my wrists and he pulled a pair of anti-magic handcuffs out of his coat, the chain between them already broken, and tightened them around my wrists.
"I took these from your room before I even left to try and stop you," He explained. "I was never quite sure whether or not they would work at all, but I had to get you off guard before I tried- otherwise Mevolent would've stopped you from letting me do it. Obviously, I never had time for that." All of a sudden he paused, and his eyes met mine again. There was something in them I couldn't quite place- something he wanted to say, but couldn't.
"What is it?" I asked gently; I was surprised at how easily I forgot about the rest of the world. For just a few moments, I would pretend that everything was normal. Well, as normal as things had been, anyway...
Niccolo took a deep breath, and told me something I never thought I'd hear him say- "I'm sorry."