The next time I would see Emmett, I hadn’t anticipated it being during the breakout of the apocalypse. His usual perfectly parted mane stuck up like a balloon had been rubbed all over him. His face was filled with color. It reminded me of the blood that covered the King.
“Thanks for keeping your pager,” he said between inhales of the cigarette his fingers clutched.
“Of course.” My dress fluttered in the wind as I twisted my weight over the side rail. The climb up the hospital had been draining. My arms already felt like play dough. I dusted the unknown debris off me.
The moon illuminated the stress that overcame Emmett. His warrior like posture faded with the blood stains on the sidewalk that had been scrubbed clean. He had aged five years in the last few hours. The death that surrounded him, became him.
Emmett handed me lotion for my bleeding bare feet. I had lost my heels during the chaos.
“People say we’re paranoid,” I told him, referencing our need to use pagers despite technically and psychologically being on opposite sides of the war. “But then shit like this happens and can you blame us?”
“What really happened?” He breathed out smoke and flipped up the corners of his jacket. We both ignored the husleling coming from the building.
“How is he?” I backtracked.
There was a strict need to know policy, and Emmett was not a need.
“Not good,” Emmett confessed.
He dropped to his knees in front of me. I couldn’t look at the clump of the man I once admired. I focused on the clouds that appeared to be nothing more than stains darkening the night sky. The chill of the air raised goosebumps on my skin. I gripped the railing, ignoring the burn the uneven cement gave me.
Emmett’s agile fingers graced the cracked surface of my callous covered feet. His hands rubbed them over, gently yet with an unexplained tint of aggression. A few droplets of my blood leaked onto his skin. He didn’t flinch away like I was accustomed to seeing.
“The shooter,” Emmett began, with a solemn voice, “they found high heels in the suspected hotel room–”
“You don’t want to know the answer to what you’re about to ask.” I stole the cigarette from his lips, and pushed it passed mine, so the material grinded against my teeth, staining them.
His confusion – his heart wrenching, breathtaking confusion – fused into anger with a force reminding me of a dying star transforming into a black hole. “How could you? I love you! He loved you?”
“Love is not black and white. Love is not a promise or an oath. Yes I love you, but it doesn’t mean my every emotion is controlled by you. I followed my orders. That’s it. That’s all it will be.”
“Ara,” he spoke calmly, like a doctor with a terminal patient. But I supposed in some ways I was terminal, at least to him. And possibly I was terminal to the King. “How did we end up here?”
“You mean with our brother flatlining every other minute and me standing by while he was shot?” I laughed into the chaotic night.
Emmett flinched, violently. “He’s not flatlining,” he said to himself. He paused his internal monologue to stuff his wrists into the sleeves of his ridiculously expensive coat. He exhaled a mixture of smoke and brittle air.
“They were going to kill him.”
“Yeah, the real big bad evils. The Nazi 2.0, black and white evil little fu–”
“Watch your language!” Emmett insisted, eyes bulging so wide I thought they’d fall out.
“You smoke a cigarette and I can’t swear? Bull.” The railing dug near my ribs as I leaned over, craving the butterflies that came once my eyes made contact with the ground. My balance was now impenetrable, thanks to all of my training. But Emmett didn’t know that.
He whipped me back quickly, like a quarterback releasing a football. “I’m not losing two siblings tonight.”
I grabbed his shoulders, giving them a circulation ending squeeze. “Johnathan isn’t dying. Chuck fired at the perfect angle. It was a beautiful shot. The damage to his brain should be low, so ridiculously low a baby could survive. I did everything right Emmett. He’s going to live. He has to.”
A wail, so inhuman that I would think aliens inhabited the planet, sprung from my lips. The bone shattering weight that I struggled to lift had finally fallen. Instantly I threw myself around Emmett, and him around me.
“I had no other option,” I insisted, replaying all the meetings I sat in, and mathematics I had been shown over the last few days. Recalling all of the options and scenarios that had been worked out on the simulators, logically I knew my actions had been the best course to take. It didn’t prevent me from the agonizing self-doubt. The feeling that I had contributed to the assassination of my older brother.
“I did my best, I swear.” I pressed my nose against Emmett’s neck. The physical contact was the only thing keeping me from hyperventilating.
“I know that,” Emmett brushed my hair out of my face, “and Johnathan knows it too. You did good Ara. I just wish you weren’t involved in this mess.”
“I made it so he would live, why isn’t he living?” I asked, my fear reminding me of a little girl.
Emmett let the cigarette fall to the ground. He stomped on it, imprinting it against the wooden floor for good. “No matter what happens, you did good Ara. You took an impossible situation and tried.”
“Sir?” The automatic doors leading to a private waiting room slid open, to allow a nurse dawned with surgical scrubs to enter the deck. Emmett acted fast, and shielded my face with his jacket. I was still considered a traitor, as wrong as that may be.
“Sir would you follow me?” the nurse questioned, keeping her voice painfully professional.
Emmett’s grip released a tad. “What is it?” he questioned.
She only gestured him along.
And I decided to prepare myself for the worst.