Amadhay woke up feeling warm.
Her thoughts were still rather blurry and she couldn’t quite remember what had happened. What she did remember was feeling wonderful and interrogating Atlas with her Benjy. Then she remembered all the good, wonderful feeling disappearing and being replaced with sluggishness and fuzzy thoughts. She thought maybe someone had threatened someone else, but she couldn’t be positive. The very last thing she remembered was Benjy’s voice, so she assumed it was a safe bet that she was still with him.
Now that everything was becoming less blurry, she recognized that she was in a bed. It definitely wasn’t hers, not with white sheets and too many pillows under her head. So she thought it was also safe to assume that she was in Benjy’s bed. And with that logic, she assumed that the large, warm body behind her was Benjy’s.
“You could’ve just asked, Benjy,” she joked. “I would’ve come into your bed consciously. This is a little creepy.” She laughed slightly, freezing when a chuckle came from behind her that was definitely not Benjy’s.
She bolted up, or rather, she tried to bolt up, but her head still wasn’t on quite right. She was just dizzy enough to have a time of sitting up, but to the credit of whomever was in bed with her, they waited until she was sitting up to touch her, and even then, only putting a hand on her knee. She jerked away, only that moment recognizing that she was still wearing her clothes, which was a blessing.
“You should go back to sleep,” Atlas’ sleepy voice told her. “We still have a few zoots before we’re at our destination.”
“Our destination?” Amadhay demanded, trying to get out of the bed altogether. She couldn’t, but she made a great effort. Instead, she settled for sitting at the furthest edge of the bed from him. “Where am I? What’s going on? Where are you taking me? Where’s Benjy?”
Atlas gave a long, suffering sigh, his eyes still closed and he still lay in the bed. “I thought you would have figured it all out by now, Amadhay, really I’m disappointed in you. Try to figure it out,” he urged.
“I don’t want to play games with you anymore!” she shrieked, balling her hands into fists and then almost immediately relaxing them.
Atlas’ eyes slowly opened. “Deduce it on your own, Amadhay. I know you’re intelligent enough.”
To avoid looking at him, she looked around the room, trying to gain her bearings. She was in a room, but the only things in the room were the bed and a safe. The door had locks all over it, both physical and magical. She could tell that some of them were as much to keep her in as to keep others outside. She moved her hand to her hair to find that it was neatly braided in two plaits. She wasn’t sure if that disturbed her or not, but considering that she was trying to calm herself, she decided that it didn’t. If anything, it made her feel more symmetrical and thus, better at least on one scope.
She couldn’t tell if they were on a boat, aircar, or some other creation because there was no window, only the door. She couldn’t detect any movement, in fact, if Atlas hadn’t told her that they were traveling to some unknown destination, she would have assumed that they were still.
She glanced at Atlas, who she noticed was also fully clothed. He was watching her, just as he had been watching her all day. Was it even the same day?
“What day is it?” she demanded.
“Same day as you remember. It’s just late.”
“Why am I in here?”
“You needed sleep.”
“Why are you in here, then?”
He grinned. “I was tired too,” he claimed, closing his eyes again. “And I thought you might prefer to have a familiar face when you woke up instead of just waking up alone in a strange room.”
“And just how is your face familiar? Where’s my Benjy?” she demanded, pulling her knees up to her chin. She hugged her legs, eyeing him warily.
“The ghost?” Atlas asked, raising his eyebrow. He looked to Amadhay with a perplexed expression.
“He’s a phantom, you ass,” she muttered lowly.
“Well I expect that he’s back at the Phoegani base. He should be waking up sometime soon.”
“Why am I not?” she asked again. This time Atlas gave her an irritated look.
“I’m sure you can determine that for yourself.”
“Obviously I can’t, or I would have stopped asking you by now,” she snapped, glaring at his hair. She kept glaring even as he sat up and glared right back at her.
“Try,” was all he said before he quirked his eyebrow again.
“Fine,” she amended through gritted teeth. “You’re taking me with you, probably somewhere in Palnoki. That much I can figure out on my own.”
“Obvious deductions, sweetheart. Try a little harder,” he mocked her, making her hiss at him. He didn’t seem put off by her action, in fact he didn’t seem bothered at all. He stayed where he was with his eyebrow quirked at her.
She closed her eyes tightly for a moment, took a few deep breaths to center herself, counted to eleven, and then opened her eyes.
“Yes, you’re still here,” he stated, now smirking at her, which she regarded with a new glare.
“I should just kill you,” she muttered. For some reason, however, she felt no inclination to do just that, which, now that she thought about it, was strange. That was definitely her first reaction to finding a strange body in bed with her, especially when she had no idea where she was or how she got there. In fact, all of her reactions had been strange in that she had been keeping herself relatively calm instead of having a panic attack or otherwise attacking. “What have you done to me?”
Atlas tilted his head in question, but didn’t say anything, which only served to irritate Amadhay further. “How did you knock me out to begin with? Why am I so calm? I should be freaking out right now. I know it and I’m sure so do you. I should have tried to kill you at least once. I’m certainly annoyed enough to. So why haven’t I? What have you done to me to make me so relaxed?”
He gave a soft, short laugh. “Of course you noticed. Shouldn’t have expected any less of you.”
“What in the deep pits of Water are you talking about?” she demanded, becoming more uncomfortable by the click. Her wrist moved instinctively to give her access to her knives, which she wasn’t even slightly surprised to find she didn’t have.
“My Gift, of course,” he replied so casually that she immediately mistrusted his answer. “I was using it on you to keep you calm. I suspected that was the better of my options. Having to sedate you so that you wouldn’t hurt yourself attempting to kill me wasn’t very appealing to me, though Scarlet and Mitch were very partial toward that option. You certainly haven’t made friends there. What did you do, kill their mothers?”
She smiled sweetly. “No, but I gladly would if you’d tell me where they were,” she said in a honeyed tone that made Atlas chortle.
“I see they chose not to make friends either.”
“Why are you keeping me here? Why not just kill me?” Amadhay asked again, hoping that the brief interlude would soften Atlas up enough that he wouldn’t expect her to somehow know his reasons.
He sighed softly, shaking his head. “It really isn’t all that hard to understand Amadhay.”
“Then why don’t you just explain it to me?” she pleaded, moving her legs down so that she was kneeling on the bed. Remembering how he had reacted to her in the interrogation room, she widened her eyes slightly and raised her eyebrows to attempt a more innocent look. He had been a sucker for it earlier.
“Because I have faith in you. I have faith in your intelligence,” he explained. “I know that you don’t need me to tell you something you can figure out on your own. You’re smarter than that.”
Amadhay gave a long, irritated sigh before shaking her head. “Nope. I tried. Didn’t work. Why am I here, Atlas? Why did you bring me with you? You know who I am, so you have to know that I will do whatever I have to to go back home.”
His small smile sent a shiver down her spine. “Oh, I know who you are, sweetheart.” He reached out and tucked a single curl into her braid. “Amadhay Mariandel Hakinato, third born of the late Lady Tiersea Graceling and Lord Alessandrose Hakinato. First born of triplets, followed by Amaya Secret Hakinato, the water Herald, and Hlala Delilah Hakinato, neither of whom you have spoken to since faking your own death six months ago. Inducted into the Phoegani by Lord Pheoganis, your uncle, who with Alphonse Froscunt, trained you. Originally partnered first with Tairyn du Regen, then Maria Tryst. Code-named Red Robin after you were repeatedly seen with Red Baron and Ghost Sparrow. Ranked highly among assassins, but only mid-range by magic practitioners.”
Even though he didn’t move, she felt as if he were circling her, looking at her from all angles and saying what he saw. “Obsessed with symmetry and pairs. The most important people in your life are Christein Hakinato and Benjym Base. Until a year ago, you had a servant, Indigo DuPreve, who was your own personal golem-maker and your most faithful servant. When nervous, you count to the number eleven because it is symmetrical yet indivisible. You are allergic to bananas, but like banana pudding and deal with the reaction for it every year, on your birthday. Your favorite color is red and you have made it your signature. You dislike most bugs, but enjoy butterflies for their symmetry. Need I go on?”
“Please don’t,” Amadhay automatically responded, feeling oddly violated. She couldn’t figure out how he could have learned that much about her without her knowing he was gathering information on her. The most important part of Maria’s job as her Information Liaison was keeping her up to date on those gathering information on her. The thought that someone this important had gone completely under the other girl’s radar was disturbing.
“But yes, I do know that you will attempt to go back to a home where you have to pretend to be dead for the sake of continuing to be alive, just because your sister would be opposed to your continued existence. I just can’t, for the life of me, figure out why you would go back there, where you’re a soldier, no, a weapon, while I can give you a life that is so much more than that.”
Amadhay stared at him for a long moment before answering. “Because I didn’t ask you to save me.”