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Enemies but Lovers (part 2)

Chapter 2

The alien woman took point to lead us to their hideout. Out of a lack of trust, I stayed at the back of the line. We continued along in silence as the canopy above became denser. Light streaked through every so often. As we walked, I noticed that certain ways the light would catch the alien woman seemed to reflect off her similarly to metal.

“What should we call you?” asked Landon.

“My name is Islu. In the week we have been taking care of Diego, he has told us a lot about the two of you. He’s quite accurate,” replied Islu.

“Not accurate enough because you’re still breathing,” I said.

“Yes, your temperament doesn’t match normal healers I know. You rather kill than help,” said Islu.

“I know when people are worth it or not. My powers aren’t as cut and dry or readily available as some others,” I said. “‘I’ll do what I can for him. He might be too far gone for my expertise.”

“He also mentioned this but I felt we needed to try,” said Islu.

The rest of the journey was quiet other than the few noises of local birds or crunching of dead underbrush under our feet. I tried to mentally prepare myself for whatever condition Diego was in. My healing abilities were not top-notch like others that were mutated. Mine was mediocre at best.

He probably remembers me being able to completely put someone’s splintered elbow back into place without them needing surgery. What he didn’t realize was that the person had their own healing factor. My merger abilities just helped it go back into place more naturally without needing a cast or surgery. No one sees how tired you get afterward.

I broke out of my thoughts when I started hearing hushed whispers. In front of us was an encampment of at least a dozen tents, varying in size. Immediately, I noticed not all were as scarcely dressed as Islu. I didn’t see many females, though. Islu stopped outside the tent in the middle of the encampment. There were two of her kind posted as guards.

“Please leave your weapons here,” said Islu.

She then walked inside the tent. Landon handed over his machete and proceeded inside. I handed over the bag full of supplies, bow, and quiver of arrows. The guard on the left side of the tent entrance grabbed my forearm and pulled me backward.

“Get your hand off me,” I said.

I was surprised by the amount of resistance in the alien’s grip when I tried to strong-arm out of it.

“You’re a hunter type, no? Which boot do you have the knife hidden in today?” the guard holding me asked.

“If you unhand me right now, I’ll leave the boots here and go barefoot,” I replied.

The alien let me go and I slid off my boots. I pulled back the tent flap and went inside. Diego’s large frame lay on the floor wrapped in several blankets. His short blond hair stuck up in different directions and he was sickly pale. Landon sat to the left side of him and looked at me when I entered. Standing in complete silence, I could hear the labored and short breaths of my friend, Diego. An unshakeable feeling hit my very core. Something I also gained alongside these meager powers. Death grip, I call it. Islu came closer to me.

“You can feel it too,” she whispered to me.

I turned to make eye contact with her pale-colored eyes.

“What do you mean?” I asked, in a hushed tone.

“I feel it too,” she replied.

Crossing the tent, I knelt next to Diego and pulled back one of the blankets. The foul stench of rot filled my nostrils. His entire chest was bandaged. I knew it was gangrene from the dried spots of blood and puss. I pulled back a loose part of the bandage. His skin was greenish-black color and clammy. It only further confirmed what I was up against.

Whatever caused the infection has now become more internal. He has to be in pain because of his labored breathing. I don’t know what I can do at this point. I have to try. He wants me to. And… He’s one of few friends I have.

Landon went to get up. I put a hand on his shoulder.

“Don’t go,” I said.

“I was going to give you privacy when you do your work,” he replied.

“I rather you’d stay.”

He got comfortable again. I gripped Diego’s hand. His palms were sweaty, He opened his eyes.

“You came,” Diego said.

“I did. You’re not looking good, buddy. I’ll see what I can do,” I replied.

“They held off the infection as long as they could. I don’t know what that creature’s claws had on them. They did what they could. Don’t be angry with them, Jaeger,” he said.

“I’m impressed with how long they kept the infection away if this was a highly venomous creature,” I replied.

“If I’m too far gone, I don’t want you to hurt yourself,” he said.

I peeled back some of the bandages to get further to find the spot with the most heat. My fingers grazed a raised part with some give to it. Landon was keeping his field of view away from what I was doing. I closed my eyes and concentrated. Diego’s labored breathing echoed throughout my ears. All the deep gashes across his chest became visible to me along with all internal infections within. I swallow down the bile coming from my stomach at the sensory overload. It was worse than I could imagine.

Where should I begin? Would it be worth it? I have to try. He’s one of few friends I have.

I chose the spot with the most damage and focused my healing powers on it. After a few moments, I could feel the drain on myself but I ignored it. The drain became more noticeable as I switched to different areas desperately trying to find somewhere to gain headway. The unshakeable feeling from before came flooding back. Diego’s internal state looked no better now than a few moments ago. I opened my eyes and removed my hand from his wound. Exhaustion hit me hard as I landed backward onto my ass. The room spun as I felt a hand go to my shoulder.

“Please lay down,” I heard someone say.

The room just spun, and I remember reaching out for something but unconsciousness took me.

I awoke with Landon’s arms wrapped around me. The surroundings around me were different. We were lying in a different and smaller tent. At arms-length were my weapons and boots. Worst of all it was virtually silent. I lay there trying to figure out the time of night with the moonlight available. Crickets and Landon’s breathing were the only things I could hear. I went to move hoping not to wake Landon. He pulled me further into himself and rested his head on my shoulder. The tent then filled with his breathing. I looked over to see the handle of my dagger sticking out of my boot.

Fuck! Landon must have found that I had it strapped to my leg. I hope he didn’t do that in front of the Aliens. If he wants to admit it or not, they can’t know everything about us.

I lay there contemplating. When things were less complicated.

Before the whole disaster and the powers, I’d come home from work to my beautiful wife and young daughter. She’d tell me about her day at school, what she was learning, and occasionally needed help with homework. Was I the best husband in the world? Hell no. That’s what happens when you get so drunk at a bar and then wake up in the morning in someone else’s bed.

My little girl was my world. She mattered more to me than my wife. They were both taken from me when Uranium went into the drinking water. Other things happened simultaneously but this is how my family died. I drank more than them. I should be the one dead, not them. Somehow, I survived and this power I gained, why bother having it when it’s so useless. Landon is virtually unkillable. Then Taylor has telepathy.

I snapped out of my internal monologue and sat up. How could I forget about Taylor? He was the most terrifying of us wardens on the plane. His powers and his natural cunning make him something to be trifled with. That is if he was still alive. I didn’t see him in the wreckage… but I wasn’t looking for him. He wants the money for Landon’s bounty more than I do.

“You ok?” asked Landon, sitting up to look at me.

“Did you take the dagger off my leg in front of them?” I asked.

Landon arched his eyebrows at me.

“You don’t spring up like that because your dagger is in the wrong place.”

“Just answer my damn question.”

“No, I didn’t. I only felt it when my leg rubbed against it trying to get comfortable.”

I tried to get up, but he grabbed my wrist.

“What!” I snapped at him.

“You sprang up from being dead asleep. What happened?” he asked.

“I just realized you weren’t the biggest threat on that plane. Greed was and still is,” I replied.

Landon’s demeanor shifted from concern to something darker that I couldn’t place. A side I never witnessed. Could this be the ‘killer look’ I heard other inmates say that he had? His dark eyes met my blue ones.

“Taylor?” he asked.

I nodded.

“He is not a problem if by himself. He’s only one man,” said Landon.

I leaned in and rested my forehead against his. This darker aspect of him I never saw before. I kissed him lightly on the lips. A smile formed across his face when I pulled away.

“Well, that’s the first you’ve kissed me in a while. Normally, I’m trying to get them out of you,” he said.

“We could always do more than kiss,” I said.

“Too tired. I was helping out while you were sleeping,” replied Landon.

I laid back and put the dagger on the ground closer to me for quicker access. Landon joined me, lying on his side. He outstretched his arms toward me. I shoved him backward and laid my head on his chest. He chuckled, wrapping an arm around my back. He leaned down and kissed my forehead.

“Night, love,” he said.

“Goodnight,” I replied.

The morning came. The sleep that came to me was plagued by flashbacks of the crash. I lay staring up at the peak of the tent. Landon’s body heat was a comfort. Normally, I would just shove him away and get up. It felt different. Why, though? I scratched my chin, feeling the prickly scruff. A shave was needed soon.

Landon sat up and cleared his eyes of night junk. He looked back at me and smiled.

“Cold?” he asked.

“No,” I replied.

“Sleep well?”

“How can one sleep well in a camp full of people I will never fully trust and another that could sneak up whenever he finds us?”

Landon rolled his eyes.

“There’s the normal snark. I was wondering if you were getting sick on me.”

“How so?

“You rarely show affection. Sorry. I’m not just used to it I guess.”

“I show it when I want.”

I got up to fully stretch out my back. I leaned forward and tried to touch my toes without bending my knees. To my frustration, I was just a bit short on the objective.

“Are you two up?” asked Islu, from the other side of the tent flap

“Yes,” replied Landon.

Islu stayed at the entrance. Her eyes shifted from Landon to me. She then shifted a leg to the outside of the tent.

“Diego died last,” she said.

I charged forward, my hand around her neck before she could escape.

“Jesus Christ, Jaeger, let her go!”

She closed her eyes and Landon was trying to loosen my grip.

So, this is how you solve everything? Is violence the only thing you know? I will never understand the goodness Diego or Landon sees in you. Everything you have ever done in your life has been full of malice, I heard Islu say directly into my mind.

My body went against me and loosened my grip on her. Landon held onto my wrists. I tried to break out of his grip but he put more pressure on them.

“Stop. This is not what he would want,” said Landon.

“Don’t speak for him! You will never mean the same to me as he did.”

I didn’t mean to say it. It wasn’t true. They both meant something to me. I cared about Diego; he was my friend. Landon was more than a friend to me. As much as I could truly love someone, that was Landon to me. He didn’t have to say anything. I already knew I royally fucked up. I leaned into the punch that I saw out of the corner of my eye.

“For what it’s worth to you…” I began.

“Don’t. Go cool off,“ he replied.

I grabbed my boots and walked out of the tent. I ignored the stares I was getting as went to find a spot to cool off.

I definitely fucked up. He’s never the first to throw a punch. Good job, you idiot… 

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