Aaron woke up, but for a long time he didn’t open his eyes or move. He sensed light in the room, and there was another person there close to him, but everything else was familiar: it was his own bedroom, his own sheets, his own house. It was almost like nothing happened.
Except then he opened his eyes and there was medical equipment on his bedside table and a stranger in a chair. It was a blonde woman who was engrossed enough in a book that she didn’t notice him moving even when he cleared his throat.
With a deep breath, he tried to make his body obey him.
He let out a cry when he tried to get up, and the woman next to his bed gasped and dropped her book.
“Oh by the Sisters, Mr. Fineman!”
Aaron collapsed back onto his pillow and closed his eyes. The woman rummaged around and finally settled on the edge of the bed and started tugging at the bandage around his chest. This was the first time he noticed it. It was good and tight, wound all around his torso, but seemed to mostly be there for the sake of his shoulder. The wound pulsed with pain like it was glad to be acknowledged.
“Take it slow,” the blonde said. “I’ll help you to sit and we’ll deal with this bandage, okay? Take these first.”
She gave him a couple of pills and helped him to down them with water. Then she helped him up. It felt like rising from the dead, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as Aaron feared. Her hands were constantly steady, finding no problem in supporting his weight while winding the bandage around his chest.
Aaron didn’t want to look, but he saw that the wound had been cleaned up nice and stitched up. When she was done, she sat patiently by, just waiting. It took him long before he found it in him to speak.
“Doctor Sally King,” she said. “I’m here for the local police.”
The energy drained from his body. Somehow he had hoped, even though he had been shot and stitched up, that it had all been a dream. He let out a sound that was everything but dignified.
“Does it hurt?” she asked.
Aaron nodded. She finished applying the bandage while he lay down, stifling the sobs that were trying to burst out of him. The tears didn’t win. So long as he clenched his jaw and focused on the dull throbs of his wound, he didn’t cry. The doctor finally finished and closed the bandage with a safety pin.
She told him to lie down and relax and was about to return to her book, when another memory hit him. He asked to sit up.
Doctor King protested, but Aaron wouldn’t listen, and finally she helped him to sit up. He covered his face with his hands as his vision swam. The doctor steadied him and told him that he needed to lie back down, but he shook his head.
“I want to know what happened. Everything that happened.”
She went quiet for a long time, her eyes blank with emotion. “You have that right. I’ll try and explain as well as I can, but-“
“No.” She started, and he regretted raising his voice. “No, I’d like to talk to the woman who saved me. M-something, she was called. I want to talk to her.”
Sally’s features went cold for a second, but then she got her emotions in check again.
“I’ve told them I can’t let you see anyone.”
“I’m seeing you.”
A smile touched the corners of her mouth. “Yeah, but…” She let her words trail off while biting her lip.
“Please, I feel well enough to talk to the person who saved me.”
Milena tidied up Aaron’s dining room first thing the next morning.
She returned furniture to its old position, picked up glass shards and stale bread, stacked the plates that had miraculously survived when she swept everything off the table. When she was finally done, she felt sweaty, but also a little better about sleeping in his home.
The feelings of guilt would return in due time. For now, she sat down and surveyed her work. She let her thoughts drift, staring at nothing in particular. Only when she heard footsteps did she return her attention to the real world. Dani was in the living room with a big smile and curls dancing around her face.
“This room looks nice now,” she said, and she walked over to sit on the chair in front of Milena. “And Sal just told me Fineman’s awake. He wants to talk to you.”
Milena shot her partner a look with her eyebrow raised. “Sally won’t allow that.”
“She will, too. He insisted really strongly and all.” Dani put her hands behind her head and inclined on the chair. “I think he might want to thank you.”
Dani’s eyes were soft and full of pride, but Milena’s mouth went dry. She had a feeling that wasn’t what he wanted at all. Nevertheless, she got up from her chair and went to his bedroom. She walked by Sally King who stood guard by the door, arms folded. She had her hair tied up in a tight knot and looked like a stern librarian. Her look said it all: I’m allowing this, but don’t step out of line.
Milena smiled her best not-guilty-of-anything smile and entered Aaron’s bedroom. Like the rest of the house it was neat, there were heavy drapes, luxurious wallpapers and a huge canopy bed in the middle. Aaron was sat there, looking a bit less pale than the day before. The only hint of him being hurt were the dark circles around his eyes and the bandage that was visible under his shirt.
She couldn’t speak, so he ended up talking first. He just said “Hi.”
“Hi,” she said back, and her face flushed with heat.
“You’re that woman who saved me.” He smiled in a weak attempt to stave off the awkwardness. “Your name was…?”
“Milena. Hartfield. I’m a detective, and I know who you are. Aaron Fineman. I… looked you up after what happened.”
He smiled, and she noted that it was a particularly lovely smile.
“I’m pretty easy to find info on, I imagine. Please, sit down.”
She was almost sad to see the smile go from his face, but she took a seat and did her best to act professional. Now that he wasn’t smiling anymore, she was back to feeling anxious. No words would come out of her mouth. It had dried completely. Aaron looked at her thoughtfully for a while, like he wanted to take in everything, and then he said:
“So, I guess a thank you is in order. For saving my life.”
“I’m just doing my job,” she said. She took a chair that was in the room and pulled it over next to the bed. “I’m glad to have been of assistance.”
“Well, I’m very grateful.”
“Don’t mention it.”
Really, don’t mention it. Especially don’t mention my Talent. Please.
The smile on her face felt painted on. Awkward silence settled around them, and the air was heavy with all the questions that were hovering between them.
“So, uh, you were pretty… hard-core,” Aaron said then. “Doing all that… fighting.”
His voice was like an explosion in the silence.
She bit her lip and got up from the chair, pacing the room. He remained seated on the bed, and she could sense his eyes following her around. After what felt like hours of staring and pacing and staring and pacing, he spoke again.
“I don’t like dancing around this. I want to know what the hell it was all about.”
She spun her head so fast her neck cracked. “You mean…?”
“Yeah. The floaty thing.” Aaron looked down at his hands while talking. “You’d think with my long-time girlfriend and my good friend trying to kill me, that would be the oddest thing that happened the other day. But then I saw what you can do. I didn’t imagine him hovering in the air and choking, did I?”
Milena opened her mouth, considering whether she should just lie and run straight to Dani, but his eyes issued a silent warning. And he deserved the truth. Well, most of it, anyway. She wasn’t allowed to tell ordinary people of the Talented or the League or the work they did, but then she didn’t have to.
“It’s… a surprising ability, I guess. To an outsider it must be pretty scary.”
“At that point I’d been shot, stabbed, and betrayed. But yes, it was still scary.”
She still saw it in her mind as well. The man’s face as he choked and struggled for his life against an invisible force. Even worse was the memories of her Talent running amok when she should be able to control it.
“How do you do it?” Aaron asked.
“I… drink an alchemical potion, and I can push and pull on human bodies. But only human ones. Not objects, not animals. And it only works so long as the potion is in my body and not digested.”
“How many others like you? Any other detectives with powers?”
She paused. “Nobody. It’s just me.”
The pause had been too long, and she knew it, but despite that he seemed to accept it. He got up from the bed with some difficulty and moved to the chair she had been sitting on. Then he asked the next question: “How long have you been able to do it?”
“All my life.”
“Nate… did you kill him?”
She guessed that was the man he had seen her use the Talent on. “No, he’s alive and well. So is the woman. We don’t really know their names, though.”
“Nathan and Siobhan. If that’s really what they’re called. I suppose you’ve taken them away now… there’s no chance of me seeing them again?”
Milena shook her head, then remembered that he had his back to her. “It’s best if you don’t see them. We’re afraid what they might do.”
“They can hardly do much now, can they?”
His eyes burnt into hers. “I mean, you’ve got them locked up, right?”
“Yes, we do.”
She didn’t want to tell him anything more. He saw one Talent in use. He thought it was just her. There was no reason for him to know what those people could do to him over a distance. Even if she felt guilty looking at him. The worst part was that it felt like he trusted her.
“I’ll have to wait for a trial, then?”
There won’t be one. No such thing with the League.
“Yes, pretty much.”
Aaron nodded and ran a hand over his face. She noticed beads of sweat on his forehead and his upper lip. He must be in pain.
“I’d better let you rest,” she said. “Thank you for talking to me. We can use their names for our investigation.”
He stood up from the chair and nodded. “Thank you. For everything.”
She spun to leave, but he stopped her. “Don’t think you’re done talking about that ability of yours. If I hadn’t been shot, I would’ve been questioning you to hell and back.”
Even in this state his smile was a sunrise dawning on his face, and she felt an odd desire to tell him all her secrets. “Don’t worry, we’ll talk later.”
Milena closed the door after herself. She vowed to never speak to him again.