She would not let me in. She would not answer my shouts through the door. And so I broke it down. I strode into Takeshi’s quarters and found Ana curled into a ball on his bed, and for a moment I seized up with rage and horror. The stench was awful. The sight was worse.
I took two steps forward and hoisted her up by the shoulders. She was limp for a moment, but she began to struggle as I pulled her from Takeshi’s cot, the place where they spent their last few hours of happiness. She bit and clawed at me with dirty, long fingernails, but she was so weak that it was not difficult to drag her down the hall to the shower room, her pathetic cries ringing down the corridor and drawing the other Guards out of their chambers to watch the spectacle.
I was past caring for her dignity, for her protests. If Takeshi saw her like this, his heart would shatter. I turned on the cold water and held her down as it drenched us both.
“Let me go!” she shrieked, scoring my arms with her nails. “Let me go!”
“I will not let you go,” I shouted, shaking her, my anger getting the best of me. “I will never let you go.”
Something about that phrase made her go still. She gaped up at me, water rolling in rivulets down her haggard face, through her matted hair. “What did you say?” she whispered hoarsely.
“I said I will never let you go. So stop fighting me and think of Takeshi. Not how you miss him. Not your final memory of him. Think of what he would say if he were here.”
She blinked at me.
“Think of what he would want you to do, Ana.” I pulled her shirt off, and then yanked her pants off, shouting for Rais to bring me an extra pair of fatigues from her quarters and leave it outside. His gruff acknowledgement came a moment later.
Ana did not struggle, even though I had stripped her bare and was still holding her under the chilling spray of the shower in that dank, mildewed room. I gentled my touch, pushing a bar of grimy soap into her palm, urging her to clean herself up, reminding her that Takeshi would want to see her strong and fierce, not defeated and childlike. She needed to do this for him.
“But he’s gone,” she said. “He’s gone.”
I took her face in my hands. “But I’m here. And I need you. We’re partners now. I can’t do this without you.”
“You don’t need me.”
I gritted my teeth. “I do. Together, you and I will kill them all. We will destroy them. We will make them wish they had never come to this city in the first place.”
Her eyes sparked with something dark and brutal. “We could kill them all,” she said quietly. Her grip on the soap tightened.
“Yes. We will kill them all. Every last one. You and me.”
“We will kill them all.” She leaned against the dingy tile, weak from hunger and struggling. “Now get out of here and give me some privacy.”
I did, relief singing in my veins. But I stood outside the shower room, just in case. I’m not letting her out of hearing range until I’m sure she’s all right.