After Croatoan killed three Cleavers effotlessly, the Sanctuary let us go without much of a fuss. We walked straight past just about everyone working there on our way out, and I kept my eyes glued to the floor. I felt bad for... Well, everything really- all the crimes I had comitted, actually helping Mevolent, and now I was probably scaring the living daylights out of them... On second thought, even what I was doing right then was wrong- how could I justify my own escape at the cost of the lives of three people who had never betrayed anyone?
I turned the water off and stepped out of the shower, wrapping myself in a gray towel. I hadn't wanted to take the time for a shower, but as Niccolo pointed out, it would be two days before we could teleport to Ireland, anyway, and after our 'direct approach' at the Sanctuary, we couldn't exactly take a plane, either- so he insisted I take a shower and make myself comfortable.
I changed into a fresh pair of the same black sweatpants, this time with a bright blue shirt, and shrugged on my black leather jacket. In the kitchen I found a rather large, warm basket. Atop it sat a note, reading Bring this to the open field, by the bridge. No peeking. So he had made lunch, but I was the one who had to haul it around... Typical. I smiled lightly.
"Can I ask you something?" I questioned as Niccolo passed me a sandwich. He still hadn't let me see inside the basket.
"Hmm?" He replied in that elegant, dark chocolate voice of his.
"Who did you kill? You know- to get this new discipline?" I wasn't going to ask- I never had before- but the more time I gave myself to think, the more horribe I felt for everything I'd done, so I occupied my thoughts however I could. Anything but the people I'd killed.
"One of Death's friends. It's an incredibly useful discipline- I couldn't pass up the chance to take it."
"One of Death's friends..." I repeated, but stopped myself before I started guessing names. Then I realized something I should've noticed right away. I started to wonder just how clouded my mind really was. "You keep talking about Death... You do mean Death Rose, right? I thought she was dead.."
"Well, she was," He began, "For all of two minutes. She came back before I did. I told her to tell you that you had become far too uncaring for my liking, but it looks like you never got the message." He shrugged sightly. "Oh well. It doesn't much matter now."
He stood up, brushed some crumbs off himself, and offered me a hand up. I took it, and he led me to the bridge over the very small river next to the field. He carried the basket in his other hand.
"Why are you doing all of this?" I asked suspiciously. "A picnic in an open field, the bridge at sunset... If I'm perfectly honest? This just doesn't seem like you. Is there some special occasion, or something...?"
"Aretha, didn't you know?" Niccolo replied smoothly, "It's Valentine's Day." As if that explained everything. It only left me more confused... Valentine's Day is when couples all go out for fancy dinners or give each other chocolates and flowers or something- basically, the complete opposite of every element of his life.
"And there's something I need to tell you." He continued; he didn't have to ask for my full attention. I wanted an explanation. One thing I didn't know was what I wanted that explanation to be.
The sun was now barely peeking out above the ground, surrounded in a halo of blindingly bright rustic orange, and painting the whole sky different shades of red and pink. Even the sky seemed to have its own Valentine's celebration.
"I..." I really didn't know what I was expecting, but I never could've anticipated what actually happened. I heard the basket drop to the wooden floor, and Niccolo had pulled an iron stick with a whilte hot end out of it... And I couldn't believe it, but it was headed towards my neck...
I stood there frozen- time seemed to move in slow motion, but it still wouldn't be slow enough for me to avoid the hot end of the iron. But then someone tackled me to the ground, from out of nowhere, and when I fianlly wrapped my head around what was happening I was on the ground and Rosa Evergreen was on top of me, a bit of her hair still smouldeing from where it had brushed against the iron as she shoved me out of the way.
"Why-" I began, but she silenced me with a kiss. That was it. I was dreaming. I had to be.
"Aretha..." She said in a small, shy voice, a blush flushing over her cheeks, "I'm in love with you..."