A/N: Hey baby. So basically, this chapter begins right after the first, if you are confused and/or disoriented. It's time to explain some crap. Yeaauh!
The soft waves of blankets enveloped Gaia's body completely as she woke, curling up comfortably and then stretching backwards. Air entered her lungs in an audible whoosh; she breathed the first relaxed breath she'd taken in days. Then the pain kicked in. In her thighs. Her shoulders. Her fingernails, for Chrissake. And the memories flooded back to her—the rooftop, the syringe, and… Ed.
Her eyes snapped open, immediately watering at the intensity of the light. But the pain was nothing compared to the rest of her body. She ignored it.
"Ed?" she asked, focusing on one of the blurry dark shapes in the room.
A warm hand rested on her shoulder, and for a second, she felt as if nothing were wrong at all. "I'm afraid not, sweetheart," a man's voice murmured. Gaia felt sick.
"Get off me." She swiped his hand away, sat up in bed and blindly grabbed at his shirt collar. "Where is Ed? Where is my father?" Her eyes were beginning to adjust, and she could now make out the hooked nose and black hair of the guy she had her grip on. "You have to know."
Hooked-Nose Guy tensed, but didn't try to shove her off. "For your information, your little boyfriend's been working for us all this time. He's how we found you in the first place. And your father." He actually laughed. "Houdini really overestimated you, Moore." In a flash, he whipped his arms around so he was gripping her wrists. Then he scoffed and pushed her away.
Gaia was having a hard time breathing all of a sudden. "Ed wouldn't… Ed…" She let the hurt of it sink in. This thug had no reason to lie to her. And it only made sense that Houdini would try to get to someone close to Gaia. She tucked away the urge to cry. "You have my father?"
"Yeah, kid, we do. But he's not being much more helpful than you are."
"Shut up, Pete. We're not supposed to tell her anything about the interrogation room."
"Whatever. This chick's so dumb she wouldn't know what to do with the information we give her anyway."
"Still…" The other guy cast wide blue eyes on Gaia, big with fear. "The big guy wants her for a reason. And he wants her to not know anything for a reason too."
"Wilton, who was put in charge of her damn room?"
"You heard me."
"That's right. So shut up and do what I say we do." He turned back to her with a smile that curled up his cheeks unnaturally. "That's right, sweet little Gaia. Daddy is getting the shit kicked out of him because he won't tell us what we want to know. But the funny thing is, we already know everything we need. Now we're just doing this for fun. Because your daddy is a pain in the ass."
Gaia sat up violently and tried to get another good grip on him, but he stepped away before she had the chance.
"You wanna know something else that's funny?" Pete asked sweetly, almost intimately. "You're waiting in this room… to die. Because that's it. That's all he needs now to survive. Your blood. An injection of your blood into his body and this disease he has is cured." He sighed and shrugged, as if to say, it's not a big deal. "The only thing I don't get is why he's kept you alive this long. He wanted to say goodbye, I guess. Seems like a waste of time to me."
Her adrenaline was prickling in her fingers now. "Well, that's obviously not happening," she mumbled.
"What? You, dying?"
"Yeah," she growled through clenched teeth. An unusual amount of anger kicked in with the normal adrenaline—her fingers clenched, her legs tensed against the bed as if ready to spring into action, and her pulse began to race.
She couldn't believe they hadn't tied her up. They were just as stupid as they looked.
Gaia leapt to her feet and easily knocked Pete on his ass with an expert sidekick. Red liquid splurted from his squashed nose, and he started convulsing as if sobbing violently, only when she listened more carefully, she realized that he was laughing. She shook her head in disgust. But she now had to pay attention to Wilton, whose footsteps made echoing dins on the hard floor as he tried to attack from behind. Gaia swept his legs from under him. Wilton groaned as he hit the ground, but he was on his feet much faster than she expected. She threw her arm forward so hard that her knuckles cut along his cheekbone. Wilton looked surprised, but so did Gaia. Because suddenly she felt the weakness setting in again. She ignored it, pressed her palm into his nose, breaking it. He fell to the ground a little too easily, and in the same moment she flung herself at the door, yanking it open.
Her bare feet slapped against the cool hospital floor, step after step sounding like the strike of a whip. But Gaia could barely breathe at all. Her throat tightened; she clutched her hands around her neck and tried to force herself to cough. Her oxygen-deprived legs gave in, and her palms smashed into the floor. She could already hear the footsteps of Wilton and Pete behind her. There was nothing she could do. They grabbed her arms, shoved a needle into her neck and slowly laid her down. It took a few moments, but Gaia's throat began to open. She took a long, wheezing breath.
"Fuck you," she hissed.
"No thanks, Ms. Moore," Pete replied. "You look like shit."
Gaia took one look at his blood-splattered face and managed to laugh. "You're one to talk."
"What the hell is going on out here?" she heard an all-too-familiar voice demand. "She's supposed to be in her hospital room."
Gaia's throat tightened again, but because of sadness now. She raised tear-filled eyes to meet Ed's, suddenly weaker than the moment before. "Ed Fargo," she said hoarsely. "And I thought I'd never see you again."
Ed blinked, as if he hadn't registered her presence until now. But there was no surprise on his face, no pain. His brown eyes, normally so full of compassion, were blank, dull, inhuman. "I'm sorry I had to do this, Gaia. It was the only way he'd let me live." His voice didn't even sound like his—it was measured and even and emotionless.
"Who are you, and what have you done with Ed Fargo?" she whispered. Tears fell from her eyes in large splashes. She'd never felt so… betrayed before. Never.
"Just accept it. That's all you can do. That's what I did. A very rich man will keep living because of you. That's just the way the world works."
How could these words be coming from Ed's mouth? "And you... You're the one who told them about... the tests and... my father?"
He nodded, slowly and unashamedly.
Surprise came onto his face for the first time. "What?"
"You heard me," Gaia said, bitingly. "I want you to leave here right now. I want you to go. I want to hang out with my buddies Pete and Wilton."
"Ed, I'm completely serious. Get the hell out of my face." She stared him down, seeing the first traces of hurt and confusion on his face, and feeling satisfaction. But as quickly as the hurt had come, it seemed to vanish.
"Fine," he spat. "Let me just call Houdini for you."
Ed turned his back to her, pressed two buttons on his phone, and paused.
"Houdini," he said. "She's awake. She's in the hallway."
He slowly turned around, and he suddenly looked like the Ed that Gaia knew. His eyes filled with sadness and a touch of insecurity. He reached out his hand and touched her hair, and she was too taken aback to stop him. He squatted beside her.
"There are things you don't know about me," he whispered through his teeth, his anger belying his gentle expression, before turning away the final time.
But before Gaia had even put together what he'd said, Houdini's hands grabbed her arms and yanked her to her feet.
"And now, the moment you've all been waiting for—the career-making trick!" Houdini shouted before pulling her back into the hospital room.