Hello! So, first Red Eye fic. Just a sort of taste-tester if you will. Could turn into a multi-chapter fic. Not sure yet. Let me know what you think! :) x
The door swung open with a reluctant whine and revealed the very bowels of motel hell. Lisa couldn't contain the noise that squeezed from between her teeth.
Jackson snorted, "you're on the run Leese. What were you expecting, the Lux Atlantic?"
"Pig," she muttered.
Jackson merely snorted again and gave her a none-too-kind shove into the nightmare that was to be her home for the next few days.
Sighing, Lisa's backpack landed with a thud as she collapsed onto the bed.
Jackson followed the routine - scan, close the blinds, double check, then cover with drapes. Next scope out the place and check for trip wires, pressure points, bugs, cameras, hollow walls and trap doors, double-sided mirrors, and anything else his sick company destroyed lives with.
Her heart constricted and a sour taste filled her mouth. She sat up suddenly, ignoring the little cartoon birds spinning around her head - they really needed to do something about the food situation.
She had collapsed onto the bed, the bed, as in one, uno, mono –not enough to fit both a cold-blooded killer who balanced upon the precipice of killing and herself.
At that moment, the object of her thoughts came sauntering out of the bathroom in all his cool, calm, and calculating glory. "The place is clear, well, as clear as an MRSA infested cesspit can be. Oh and the shower has no curtain so we're gonna have to deal with those trust issues of yours. Now did you want to- what is it now?"
"There's only one- wait, what was that about the shower curtain?" Lisa tried to convince herself that the last part of that sentence was an octave higher, not due to the growing hysteria in her gut, but because she simply felt the need to exercise her vocal chords.
Yeah, Jackson didn't buy it either.
"There isn't one. Are you moaning because there's only one bed? Because, you know, you could always stay on guard and fall asleep in that impale hazard posing as a wooden chair over there by the window."
There was a beat of silence, then her incredulous, "you're going to sleep in that chair?"
"Well, someone has to keep us alive. No offence Leese, but pens aren't all that useful when it comes to a sniper bullet."
"It was useful when it came to you."
His face said it all - thin ice Leese, very thin. Lisa's heart gulped.
"Leese, these people, they are nothing like me." She simply stared at him, forcing him to continue. "I am a manager, I manage operations. These men are the monsters children imagine hide under their bed - and they're not far off." His world was a shadow world, somewhere she'd merely brushed with by accident once in a parking lot in the middle of the day. Now it was after them both. But he lived in this world of monsters and machines and sometimes the hideous mix of both and she still couldn't understand.
He sighed and dragged a hand through his hair. "Ok, here's my world in a nutshell so listen because I won't be explaining it again. There's a hierarchy, as with any other job. At the bottom you have your clerks - the faces of the business, then your tells - the street rats and your information sources, your techs - they deal in the gear and gadgetry, your temps - exclusive one-job-move-on types, your operatives - your boy scout field agents, and your managers," he pointed to himself and Lisa rolled her eyes. He gave a brief smile, which soured into a scowl. "Then you have the elite." He gave her a dark look, glacial eyes cold and serious. "These men are killers - straight, hard, and fast. You never see the bullet until it's pierced your eye and lodged itself straight into your brain. This is all they know. They're adaptable and efficient but at the heart they are animals. No mercy, no understanding, no sympathy. Unchanging and unwavering. Do you understand? They are nothing like me."
And she did. Jackson was different - his actions up to this point were a testament to that.
Lisa forced herself to quell the shiver rapidly building at the bottom of her spine. For the first time, she really looked at Jackson, the man, the monster, and the might-have-to-steal-you. 176 lbs of speed, strength, and intellect. A predator and protector. It was enough to bring back the little cartoon birds. The man himself appeared to be suffering internally and Lisa wished for once she could decipher his mechanics, tics, and tells.
"The perimeter is safe for now. Just don't go near the windows, the door, and don't turn on the lights. I'll shower first then take up watch and you can, just, whatever." It was the second time that day she'd seen Jackson minus his suave confidence and it was definitely south of unnerving. With a stiff jerk, he turned, grabbed a towel, and closed the bathroom door behind him.
Within moments she heard the creaking groan of the water surging through heavy pipes.
Lisa hadn't known she was asleep until she was dragged violently from sweet unconsciousness by the sound of thunder. Except it had come from the bathroom. In her sleep deprived mind, bullets, bombs, and bodies made the same sound. Lisa reacted without thought. She leapt from the bed and threw open the door. The sight before her was definitely not what she'd been expecting.
Understatement of the century.
Later Lisa would say that the first thing, and mainly only thing she noticed, was the fist-size hole in the tissue paper wall to the right of the mirror - obviously the end result of the noise.
In truth? The dripping and half-naked Jackson leaning into the vanity, bleeding fingers digging furiously into the porcelain, was sort of distracting.
They both knew that he knew she was there. It seemed he either couldn't be bothered to move or didn't want to.
His pale flesh was stretched taut across rippling muscles. Wing-like shoulder blades protruded almost painfully. But the thing that had made it physically impossible to look away?
Everywhere, like a disturbing map across his skin. Large and small, old and recent, deep and shallow, stitched and smooth, jagged and jaded. Bullets, burns, and bites. Slices, stabs, and shrapnel.
That was when Lisa understood. He wanted her to see this. It was why he was so still, so silent.
Jackson's life was written and defined by pain. These marks were his traits, his decisions, and his fate.
He turned and faced her, eyes like crystal pools, asking her to see, to recognise, to understand something he couldn't say.
The scars continued, following the contours of his chest and the planes of his abdominals. There was a particular cluster of monstrous silver lines on the left side of his chest.
Slowly, as one might with a wounded animal, he reached his long, pale fingers toward hers. When they wrapped around her wrist gently, she did not flinch. He repeated the process with her other hand before lifting them both and placing them on his chest.
For a moment, or perhaps it was an eternity, they stood like that.
Ever so slightly, Lisa moved her hands. With feather-light touches, her fingertips traced each and every scar she could see, counting, remembering, healing. Jackson stood unmoving beneath her soft and sweet hands, infinite eyes never leaving her.
When she had smoothed the last scar, the one on his hipbone that just peeked from the top of his towel, she finally met his eyes. She tapped his shoulder and dutifully he turned around, allowing her to begin once more. This time their eyes never left each other's in the mirror.
When once again she had come to the final scar, Lisa rested her chin on Jackson's shoulder. After a tense moment, he tilted his head and rested it against hers.
"I'm so sorry Jackson," she whispered.
He sighed, "yeah, me too Leese, me too."
There was so much more that was yet to be said but for now, this was enough.