At first I thought that I was going crazy, but then I realized that it was him, alive, in front of me. Before I realized what I was doing I closed the distance between us hugged him, then, standing on tiptoes I kissed him. His lips were dry and broken, he tasted of blood. That taste convinced me that he was real, I couldn’t imagine that. His hands rested on my shoulders, he was trembling, he was tired, and hurt, and the effort of standing was too much for him.
I heard the Amazons moving behind me, they were surprised, and scared, he was supposed to be dead, and still, he was moving, I kept holding him, being careful not to hurt him more. In a world where strength was everything it was necessary to maintain appearances. I did something that I had never done before, I took the last of the energy I had stolen from the Amazons and pushed it into Kimball’s body. I noticed the change immediately, the trembling stopped and he stood taller, he looked bigger, stronger.
“Alkaia, call a car, we need transportation to my house, I won’t waste time by walking there.” I spoke with authority, with the voice of someone used to being obeyed without questions. Usually I tried to be respectful when speaking to her, but not anymore, she had crossed the line and I wasn’t going to cater to her ego anymore. “I will need more food and a first aid kit delivered to my house as soon as possible.”
“You forget yourself Pitonisa, I’m the one who gives the orders around here.” Alkaia said, challenging me.
‘That could be easily resolved,’ I spoke directly to her mind. ‘I could tear you apart in front of your daughter, your warriors. I could kill you and claim your position as leader of the Amazons. I could destroy your lineage and destroy your followers until there’s no one left to question my orders. Or you could do as I said and live another day.’
“Mother?” Molpadia seemed to recognize the situation, she knew I was mad and even if she didn’t know what I had told her mother she could feel the danger they were on. And it was true danger, for I was willing to do anything to ensure Kimball’s safety.
“Alkaia, Kimball and I have to go, I’m expecting you to help us, or we will have a problem.”
“I understand that you are not happy with the situation, and I will let your disrespect slide this once,” Alkaia was still trying to keep her control, “but I expect an apology once you calm down.”
“Not happy? You have no idea of what I’m feeling Alkaia.”
“She doesn’t get it, but I think I do,” Bremusa said. “The way you reacted… I felt the same way when I found out about my daughter. I know that you are not like us, but I haven’t realized how different and how alike we are until now. You care about him, really care. There’s a car waiting for you outside, they will take you to your house.”
“You shouldn’t.” Alkaia said.
“You will thank me later.” Bremusa said.
“Thanks Bremusa.” Using my powers I helped Kimball walk with me to the exit, it was important that it appeared as if he was moving by himself. We had to take advantage of the Amazon’s surprise of his recovery, we would worry about his injuries once we were alone.
We walked past many groups of slaves and warriors in our way. I did my best to check their thoughts, preparing in case someone decided to try and stop us, while helping Kimball walk to the exit. I kept looking at him, making sure he was real, he was with me. I took some pants for Kimball on our way out, he didn’t seem bothered by his nudity, but I hated to be naked in front of my tormentors, it made me feel even more vulnerable, so I did my best to offer some cover to him.
Once outside, we found the car that Bremusa had promised. I helped Kimball in and then asked the chauffeur to climb out, I wasn’t going to let anyone drive us, I wanted to be in control, I needed to be sure that we were safe. I drove with one eye on the road and one on him, making sure he was ok. We arrived to the house after a few minutes that felt like an eternity. Someone had already been there making sure the house was ready, I suspected that the order had come before my fight with Alkaia. Using my mind, I carried Kimball to my room and helped him to my bed. He hasn’t talked since I had first seen him, he just stared at me and smiled.
“I’m sorry,” I finally said, “I’m so sorry, this is all my fault.”
“No…” he said, but I kissed him before he could say anything else.
“We’ll talk later, first we need to tend to your wounds. Let me go for some water, you need liquids.”
I ran downstairs and fetched a pitcher of water and a glass. I returned to Kimball and helped him drink some water. I was worried about food, I wasn’t sure if they would send and even if they did, he wouldn’t be able to eat just anything, he needed something that wouldn’t be too strong for his empty stomach.
“We need to clean your wounds, it will be easier in the bathroom. Let me help you.” Kimball tried to stand up, but he was too weak, the energy I had given him had already run out, it had been just enough to get him out of the slave quarters, I helped him walk to the bathroom, doing my best not to hurt him.
We got into the shower and using a clean cloth, I started to wash the blood and dirt from his body. As the dry blood was washed away, the scars in his body revealed themselves. It was a horrible sight, but most of the cuts were already closed, most scars looked old.
“How long have you been here?” I asked in a whisper, I wasn’t sure if he would be able to hear me.
“Three days,” he said, but it was impossible, some scars looked weeks old. “I’m tired, my body regenerates faster than normal bodies, but it takes a lot of energy, I’m spent.”
I remembered Oslo, one of the warriors that was captured with me during my first mission outside the Palace. He was a mutant, he didn’t die because of his injuries, it was the lack of food and water that killed him, his body was strong, but required more sustenance to keep going. It was the same with Kimball, his body was designed to protect itself, but required a lot of fuel to do that, and the Amazons had starved him the last three days. I finished cleaning him and helped him back to the bed.
“Why are you smiling?” It was weird and it worried me. He was hurt, he had no reason to smile.
“Because you’re here,” his smile got even bigger, “because you care. I can’t believe I have you as my nurse.”
“You helped me before, it’s the least I can do for you, but I’m afraid I won’t be as good as you.”
“You’re perfect.” He took my hand and kissed it, then closed his eyes and fell asleep.
I wasn’t sure what to do. His injuries were already healing and there was no signs of infection despite the conditions he had been kept in. But he was pale and weak, he was thinner than the last time I had seen him. Once the adrenaline ran out I was feeling sick myself, the headache was already pounding and I wanted to rest, but I couldn’t, not yet.
I went downstairs and found a couple of warriors and a group of slaves bringing the food I had requested.
“We were sent to bring you this,” one of the warriors said.
“Thanks.” I got closer and started to open the containers to see what they had sent. Soups and porridges, exactly what we needed, but I had a bad feeling about it. I took a spoon and offered a bite to one of the warriors. “Taste it.”
“I’m sure is tastes perfect,” she said.
“It’s not the flavor that worries me.” The woman wasn’t concerned about the food and was about to taste it when I noticed one of the slaves getting worried. “Wait,” I stopped the woman from tasting it. “Is there something you want to share?” I asked the slave.
“I was just following orders.” He said, scared. I got into his mind and it didn’t take long to see that some of the food had been poisoned. I took the poisoned food to the trash.
“Get out of my sight.” It wasn’t fair to punish them, they weren’t the ones trying to hurt me. I took the food that I knew was safe back upstairs, I had other concerns at the moment, I would look for the person responsible for the poison later.
I wasn’t sure what he needed more, sleep or food. He was so tired that I didn’t want to wake him up. I sat on the bed and looked at him, I still couldn’t believe it was him. I looked at his scars, at the story of abuse written in them. I had Polemusa’s memories, I knew what she had done, but looking at it was worse. Polemusa was the first to find Kimball, she had tried to use him, but he had refused to please her and had fought her. Polemusa called for help and between her and her guards they had taken Kimball to the dungeon and chained him. Polemusa had whipped him until she couldn’t lift the whip anymore, but she returned as soon as she was able to and continued with the torture. She flayed him, she spilled his blood, she kept going until she thought that he was dead, and then left him hanging in that room for me to find.
Everything he had endured was my fault, he had come back for me, and I wasn’t there for him. I was the reason Polemusa had abused him, and I was the reason he had endured it. I was sure that if he wasn’t waiting for me to arrive, he could have escaped. I laid down next to him, careful not to touch him, I didn’t want to hurt him more. After a few minutes he opened his eyes.
“They brought food, I wasn’t sure if I should wake you up or wait…”
“I’m awake now.” Before I could move he hugged me. “I missed this, waking up next to you.”
After feeding him we went to sleep, both of us needed some rest.
I woke up a couple of hours later, the headache was getting worse and I couldn’t sleep. I went down to the kitchen looking for something to drink, and more food for Kimball. I didn’t know what to do, I was feeling guilty and couldn’t think of anything to help. I went back to bed, but didn’t sleep, I looked at Kimball’s back, covered in scars. I remembered being like that, few times Agmong punishments had been so harsh, but I knew what it felt to have the whip tear your skin and cut your body. I wanted to spare him the pain, I didn’t want him to hurt. I didn’t realize I was sobbing until Kimball woke up.
“Nothing.” I said.
“Are you crying? Are you hurt?”
“No, I’m not hurt, and I don’t cry.” My eyes were dry, but I knew that if I still had the ability to cry I would have already cried a river. “I’m so sorry, this is all my fault.”
“Nonsense. It’s not your fault.”
“You said you would come back, but I didn’t wait for you. If I had, none of this would have happened, no one would have hurt you. It’s my fault.”
“Kai, you’re overreacting. It was awful, I won’t deny it, but I’m here, and I would go through the same again if that meant I can be with you. I will heal and then we will forget all about this. Let’s be happy we are together and forget what happened.”
After eating and drinking Kimball went back to sleep, but I couldn’t, the pain was too strong and the guilt too heavy, despite Kimball’s words I couldn’t stop blaming myself for his pain. And there was also the matter of Greca, I had yet to tell him about our daughter.
I fell asleep at some point during the night, I woke up when Kimball got out of bed. He was looking better, he moved easier and the pain seemed to be less. While Kimball was in the bathroom, I went for food; fruits and juices. While he was getting better, my headache wasn’t, and as soon as Kimball looked at me he noticed that something was wrong.
I told him about my headache and the reason for it, how I had found out what Polemusa had done and my reaction. Kimball listened to me and smiled, he looked so happy about it. He said that he wasn’t expecting anything like that, that it could only mean that I cared for him as much as he cared for me. He told me that we needed our rest and pulled me down with him. After a few minutes we were asleep again.