As Nadia walked the still unfamiliar path back to Andrea's apartment, she was too lost in Dean to notice her surroundings. It was late and she was alone again, which was always a recipe for a bad time. The memories dug at her again as she thought back to the times she and Dean had spent at the shooting range, in the impala, and alone in her room—those were always the worst. What is he thinking right now? What did he say? What did he do? What did he think when he woke up three days ago? Three hundred and sixty two days until she would ever be able to see him again. That thought knocked the wind out of her and she had to fight to keep moving. All she wanted to do was drop to the sidewalk, crawl into the alley and curl into a ball.
She was too absorbed to notice the footsteps behind her. Normally, she was hyper aware of such things; but Aidan was making that more and more difficult. While Nadia wallowed, Aidan complained. She resented Nadia for every moment of ecstasy and pain Nadia reran over and over in her head. What she despised the most was that this weak emotional state was all that allowed her to come out anymore; what with Themi always popping up and alerting Nadia to how close she was to finally breaking out. So she was resigned to either fighting to get through while subjecting herself to that self-inflicted pain or distance herself back to the safe and quiet vault she had fought so long and hard to escape. Take it or leave it.
But now they were both too distracted with trying to block each other out, that neither of them noticed that the footsteps were getting closer. At least not until a sharp pain at the base of Nadia's neck made everything silent. Her legs gave out and she fell hard to the pavement and held on to what little consciousness she could.
She was confused by the pain, the hard surface against her back, the tugging under her arms and ankles, and the thick fog she was engulfed in. The voices didn't help; they were too far away to understand. A sharp pressure wrapped around her wrists and pulled them over her head, where they were forced to stay. The tugging left her ankles and moved to her waist; the sensation was confusingly familiar. It was almost as if someone was trying to unfasten her belt… Someone is unfastening your belt! The new comprehension rocketed through her and her body froze. Her breath caught in her throat as her head tried to clear.
The sudden change in demeanor took the man off guard and his hold on her wrists loosened in response. The slight decrease in pressure caused Nadia to react instinctively. Her mind flashed through her options in a split second: Scream…Fight…Make them stop…
Making them stop was something she could do so easily; all she had to do was concentrate long enough to make the command stick. It was then that she realized the pronoun her brain had chosen, "them." There is more than one! One man was holding her hands and another straddled her while he unbuttoned her jeans. In the split second it took her to understand this, the man with her wrists hadn't yet realized his mistake. She was vaguely aware of the threats and compliments they whispered to her as she tried to focus on their minds well enough to have an affect on them. But she couldn't possibly focus well enough in this condition so she gave up that avenue and turned to years of preparation she had under her belt. She yanked her hands free of his grip and forced herself to sit up as fast as she could. There wasn't much she could do with the straddler holding her down, so she went after him first. As she sat upright, the other man leaned forward and her forehead connected hard with his chin and he fell backward. The straddler froze in shock as she came at him; they had never done this before. It was always so easy with the others; what is she thinking? He heard her elbow slam into his nose before he felt it and he fell back against the ground. This is all wrong. It's not supposed to happen like this!
She reached for the knife strapped to her leg but her pant leg was in the way and the first man wrapped his arm around her neck. Fight! Aidan screamed at her. Before she could ask how, she felt completely detached from her body and her hand wrapped tightly around his wrist. A putrid smell filled Nadia's nose as the man started to scream and pulled away from her. He stumbled backward and Nadia saw the glow emanating from her palm. Of course! She told herself; she had forgotten all about her other abilities—but as she tried to pull her body back, nothing happened. She was no longer in control of herself, Aidan was fighting this fight. Fear and comfort flooded her body as she watched the men stagger back in overwhelming fear.
Aidan stood up while she pulled the knife from the sheath on her ankle. She could sense how small the distance had become between her and the bigger threat, the man she had already burned. She spun and stretched her arm out as the knife sank deep into is carotid. He immediately fell to his knees and the other man started running away as fast as he could. Aidan slowly turned her head toward him and the rest of her body followed. She watched him for a second and just as he was about to reach the end of the alley, she reached out her arm and yanked it to the right. His body was forced backward and slammed into a wall.
The sound was sickeningly familiar to Nadia and she thought back to the night at the fairgrounds with Cyprien. Then her mind returned to the realizations that night had brought and how Dean had reacted. "Oh, would you shut up already!?" Aidan interrupted her.
She walked to the man slumped against the building and watched him long enough to confirm he was dead. Then she walked back to the larger man laying on the ground gasping for air. The knife had kept enough blood in his artery to keep him alive until now. Aidan reached down, grabbed the knife, and yanked it straight through his windpipe with no more expression than as if she had dropped a pen. She wiped the blade clean with the man's shirt and slid it back where it belonged. She stared down at him before saying, "Two down, 998 to go."
Aidan's words flashed another memory through her mind. A gentle looking old man walking up to her, a man she still didn't know the name of…
"Ba'al Zebub," Aidan answered.
How do you know that? Don't you know as much as I do? Nadia snapped back. Their body shrugged its shoulders. …Ba'al Zebub, walking up to her and making a deal; where she agreed to collect one thousand souls in exchange for Dean's life.
"Collecting souls…" Aidan scoffed, "does that make it sound better to you? You are killing a thousand people, get over it," Aidan rolled her eyes.
It does actually. Now get back where you belong…
"Why? Do you really still think that you can do this?" she swept her arms over the alley.
It doesn't matter what I think I can do; I have to. That's all there is to it. Now, give me my body back!
"Make me…" Aidan challenged.
Nadia was taken aback but she didn't know why. It wasn't like she really expected Aidan to just bow out gracefully.
"Seriously," Aidan commented.
Nadia fought hard to push herself back into her limbs and to the forefront of her mind but it was like trying to squeeze an orange through the opening of a pop bottle, in one piece. She could feel that she was getting nowhere fast, "I swear I will do nothing but think of Dean and every moment we spent together; if you do not get back where you belong!" She felt her body tighten but Aidan's defenses weakened slightly. Just like when Nadia was thinking of Dean, the control eased up when Aidan was distracted. Nadia thought of Dean's laugh, smile, her favorite smirk, the way his arms wrapped protectively around her, and his voice when he finally said, "I love you." She held onto Dean's face while she pushed through and regained control of her body.
"Shit!" Aidan repeated over and over again as she was forced back into the deep corners of their mind.
"Ha!" Nadia fired back loudly, just for emphasis. Footsteps echoed down the alley from the end of the alley and caught her attention. Her eyes flashed to the men on the ground. That'll serve you right. Get yourself caught…Aidan fired back. But if we are going to go to prison, could you at least zip your fly? We don't need to send out an open invitation.
Nadia rolled her eyes, refastened her pants and belt and scanned the alley for an escape route. She ran to the nearest fire escape and launched herself up to the ladder and climbed onto the roof as fast as she could. A few seconds later a man turned to face the alley and stopped cold.
Nadia was already to the other side of the building and climbing down another fire escape. She dropped to the sidewalk and glanced around but no one was there to witness her sudden appearance. She looked down at herself and saw blood covering her jacket so she pulled it off and folded it, inside out, over her arm. She took out her ponytail and brought her hair over her shoulders to obscure her face as much as she could. She was still too shaken up to use her abilities and make her self look like someone else; so she tried to look as innocent as possible. She had to walk back by the alley from which she had just fled.
Her jeans had a few spots of blood on them so she crossed the street and avoided the circles of light left by streetlamps. Nadia had vehemently encouraged her best friend, Andrea, to choose the apartment she now lived in. With the police station just around the corner, she was cursing that decision.
The lights flashing off the buildings made the scene look even worse. Nadia kept her head down and continued forward. The realization of what had happened was just starting to come to her attention and panic was rising.