The Strange Wills of Hearts

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“Ray?”

I see her when I get on the bus to go home, and I nearly run to reach her before someone else sits down next to her. “What is it?”

She has a bright smile on her face as she tells me. “He’s awake,” she says. “He wants to see you.”

“Thank god.” I nearly crush her in my arms, and I feel tears running down my face. I hadn’t realised how worried I had been. “It worked then?”

Ray nods. It’s as if she has lifted a giant weight which had been crushing my chest. I suddenly feel like I could sprint home to see him. Instead, I impatiently wait on the bus, praying that the traffic doesn’t slow it down.

I break out into a sprint when I get off the bus, though Ray still arrives at my house before me. I manage to slow myself down before my mother sees me running, but as soon as I enter the door, I head straight for my room.

He’s there, lying down on the bed when he sees me. He grins as he sees me. “What took you so long?” he asks in a faint voice.

I just throw my arms around him, and it’s a long time before I let go. “I thought you were going to die,” I whisper.

“It takes a lot to kill me,” Daniel says. “Though to be fair, that was pretty close.” He releases me and leans back to look at me. “You look like shit,” he concedes.

I grimace. “That’s generally what mass blood loss does, see.” He looks shocked. “Didn’t they tell you?”

“Tell me what?” Daniel asks. His eyes narrow and he glares over at Noah, who is standing by the door.

I look behind me. “I insisted on it,” I said. “You lost too much blood, and mine was the closest match.”

“Goddammit Cat Madigan,” Daniel groans. “You shouldn’t have done that.”

“Yeah well, you shouldn’t have attacked Christan either.” He growls at that. “Yes, the asshole deserved it, but you forgot who you’re dealing with.”

“Is he going to do it again though?” Daniel’s voice is hard as ice.

“I don’t know. My guess is not, though.”

He scoffs. “You would’ve killed him if I had died,” he states.

“Of course.” I smile at him, but it doesn’t reach my eyes. “In this world, that’s the only thing left after everything else that matters is gone.”

He’s not looking at me. Instead, he’s looking behind me, and the tired look on his face before becomes one of absolute loathing. I immediately know who it is. “You aren’t welcome here,” I inform the king behind me.

“Am I not to be forgiven ever?”

“No,” Daniel and I say in unison. “I’ve already given you my terms,” I remind him. “And I’m assuming you are not missing an eye, are you?”

I hear him walking towards me. “One more step and you’ll regret it,” Daniel says, shaking slightly.

“Get out,” I order him. Daniel begins to shake more violently. “Noah, get here now!” Jhaq pulled my arm. “I’m not leaving him!” I told her. “Daniel!”

Ten seconds later he stops, and he lies there, shivering. I sit beside him and stroke his forehead, measuring how hot he is. “How many of these have happened?” I ask.

“This is the third,” Noah tells me. “Don’t let his blood pressure rise.”

I think of how much the sight of Christan enrages Daniel, and how my mother and my brother could come in and start screaming. “Don’t let them in again,” I order. “At least not while he’s conscious. He needs to recover and he’s in no condition to work, especially not with his Grace.”

“Yes my lady.” He leaves, and Jhaq, Ray and I are left in the room with Daniel, who has gone silent.

“You are learning, Miss Madigan,” Jhaq observes.

“What do you mean?”

“Miss Madigan, you are a lady,” Jhaq insists. “And now you have the words of one.”

“I…no, I’m not.” I look down at Daniel, now sleeping with a peaceful expression on his face. “I’m not a lady, I’m just his friend. To them, I’m a pet human he keeps for company, no one would take me seriously.”

“No.” Jhaq’s voice is determined. “Master Noah takes you seriously. That is a certainty.”

She was right. Noah paid attention to me and didn’t treat me like a monster. He didn’t call me Freak. That was how Christan was before though…
_______________________________________________________________________________

Daniel woke up again later on, and when he went to sleep, it’s wasn’t the aftermath of a seizure. He was upset about his eye, but he calmed down after I reassured him how awesome guys with eyepatches were. His vanity satisfied, he soon drifted off to sleep, his head cradled in my lap. I didn’t try to move him, I just sat with him.

Noah came in and sat down by Daniel’s bedside. “His Grace has promised he won’t intrude when Daniel is awake,” he informed me. “He doesn’t want Daniel to die, so he won’t do anything that would do him harm.”

If Daniel dies, I will not hesitate to make every fibre of your being burst into flames. “What about Thommand though? I’m more worried about him than his Grace.”

“He’s not going to do anything either. I don’t know if you know this, but Daniel’s a valued member of the king’s peers. Christan doesn’t want him dead now anymore than he did when he held out that dagger,” Noah explained. “Besides, Daniel has a fever still. Thommand’s scared for his own skin, he won’t go near anyone who is sick.”

“True.”

He was quiet for a moment. “You…you and Kaya were close, weren’t you?”

“Of course we were.” And now we’re too close for comfort.

“She mentioned you,” he told me. “She told me how you needed help, with them.”

“The shadows? Yeah, I remember.” Those used to be what I was most afraid of. My Delirium was still being created, from Kaya’s memories, I hadn’t fallen down that rabbit hole yet. “She was going to help me, before…”

“I know.” He closed his eyes for a moment. “How much…do you know about her?”

I thought about it. “I…I know she was escaping from here when she got attacked. Then I saw everything after.”

His face went dark. “Oh.”

“Yeah…” I grinned a little. “There was that too,” I added.

“I…”

“I’m the last person to judge anyone,” I told him. “Your secret, and Kaya’s, is safe with me.”

“Thank you.” Noah went quiet, as if he was about to say something, but changed his mind.

“What is it? Ask whatever you want.”

“Did she…” He sighed. “All my life, I’ve never stopped wondering what went on in that girl’s head. And I can’t help but wonder…” He looked up at me. “You saw her memories. Did she…feel the same way that I did about her? Even a little bit?”

I tried remembering Kaya’s thoughts from long ago. It seems like a lifetime ago, in a way it was. There was so many emotions, so strong and vivid. Rage and fear are the most powerful ones. But there’s calm too, calm and care and trust.

“I’d say so,” I told him. “After what Kaya went through, she swore never to trust anyone again, but she came close to doing that.”

“Truly?” Noah doesn’t seem convinced.

I smiled at him. “I don’t know how much Kaya loved people. People who go through all pain can either abandon love entirely or depend on it even more. But she cared for you the most, I can assure you that.”

He gave me a tired grimace. “You loved her,” I said. “Even after she was changed. Why?”

“I…continue to ask myself that question.” Noah paused. “When I knew her, she was the brightest girl in the world, and she didn’t care less what people thought. She was beautiful. And after…I still saw her that way. Even with her purple eyes and her scars, she was still my friend.” He smiled at me. “You have friends in your world, friends who stay by you as well.”

“Yeah…but none of them felt the same way that you did about Kaya.”

“Not one?”

“No.” I hold out my left hand, showing him the scars. “No one wants to love a freak.”

“He does.” Noah looked down at Daniel. “He will not abandon you…Cat.”

“I hope not.” I touched Daniel”s forehead again. It’s warm, but not feverish. “Hearts are so strange, aren’t they?”

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