Wendy sighed as she sat back against the wall, refusing to admit that it was the only thing keeping her up at this point, the throbbing in her side having reached a crescendo since she’d landed on it when they’d tossed her into the cell. What a mess. She would be having very strong words with Carla about her idea of ‘simple’ missions when…if, she got out of this mess because the job had been a train wreck from the moment that she had slipped into the mansion. And if she was honest, she had no idea how she was getting out of this one as she pressed a hand against her side, feeling the dampness that was spreading through the material of her suit. She didn’t need the medical training they’d drilled into her to know that this was bad, and she grimaced, before letting her head fall back against the wall, eyes drifting shut.
This is bad.
“Marvell.” The low call was deafening in the silence of the room, and she jolted, hissing as the movement tugged on her wounds and she had to bite back the urge to snarl a curse at the speaker. After all, he was part of the reason that they were locked down here, but as quickly as the urge came, it disappeared leaving her exhausted and drained. Defeated, a small voice whispered in the back of her head, but she refused to accept that, not yet at least.
“Wendy,” she corrected wearily, deciding that there was little harm in admitting her name at this point as she shifted until she was leaning against the bars at the front of the cell, from this viewpoint she could just see him. Romeo Conbolt. From what little she could make out, he looked dishevelled but relatively uninjured, and as much as that irritated her, it was at least something to swing things back in their favour. “My name is Wendy,” she repeated when there was no response.
“Wendy,” Romeo sounded as though he was savouring her name, and she supposed he would be, after all, he had been asking her for it for months now, ever since their paths had first crossed on a mission. It probably wasn’t how he’d envisioned getting it though, and he was terse as he asked the one question that she didn’t really want to answer. “Are you all right?”
“If you say fine…” He didn’t finish the threat, but it was enough to startle a giggle out of her, and she sank back against the wall as she admitted.
“I’ve been better.”
He was quiet for a few minutes, and she knew even without seeing his expression that he had worked out that it was an understatement, and she couldn’t bring herself to turn around and see the realisation in his expression. For all that he had driven her up the wall over the last few months as their path had crossed more often than not, she had come to appreciate his presence, and not just for the skills he brought to the job, and she didn’t want to burden him with her failure. And it was a failure, she could admit that now, feeling the wrong kind of exhaustion pulling her down, dogging each breath and as her eyes began to drift shut, she heard Romeo’s voice again, more urgent this time as he called her name.
“Wendy? WENDY?!” She must’ve made some kind of noise, because there was a pause, and then she heard the clang of flesh on metal as he flung himself against them, panic breaking through his usual calm. “Wendy? Wendy, you need to stay awake! Wendy, can you hear me? You need to hold on, we’re going to get out of here. I’m going to get you out of here. Do you hear me?” He was making a racket now, and she wanted to tell him to be quiet, to warn him against bringing their captors charging down here, but the words wouldn’t come.
Yes, she wanted to say. Be quiet. However, her voice wouldn’t work anymore, and she could feel herself beginning to fall. Sliding down the wall, as the exhaustion became darkness that crept across her thoughts, and she could feel herself slipping even as he screamed her name again.
I’m sorry, I’m not sure how we got here…
Wendy ducked as the wall above her exploded in a cloud of dust and plasterboard, flinging up an arm to protect her eyes, and wincing as a sharper piece of debris added to the cuts already littering her skin, although she didn’t make a sound. Those shots had been wild, guessing their position and she had no intention of being the one to tell that they had been spot on, instead biting down on her lip as she huddled into the wall. Romeo who had followed her lead, pressing against her side, couldn’t fail to notice the flinch, and he reached out to touch her shoulder, reassuring and questioning at the same time, and she peered over her shoulder with narrowed eyes.
“This is your fault,” she hissed, although there was no real heat in her words, even if she was less than impressed with him for barging in on her mission. Although she had a feeling that he wasn’t the only one responsible for that intrusion. As someone had to have told him that she would be here at the palace as she hadn’t said a word beyond the fact that she had a job and she promised herself that she would be having words with them when they got out of this.
“I’ve already said that I was sorry,” Romeo retorted, although he thankfully kept his voice low, sparing him from another scolding. Not that she would have risked it. However, she kept her gaze locked on him as she rechecked her gun, the nervous gulp telling her that he had understood the message before he moved to mimic her actions. “So, what now?”
“Now I get out of here,” she replied under her breath, although she knew she wouldn’t go through with it. They might work for different agencies, and he might have been a thorn in her side on more than one occasion – particularly on missions like this where conflicting interests had compromised both their jobs, but he had also saved her skin more than once, and the apology had been sincere.
“Now we get out here,” he corrected, and a quick glance confirmed that he knew what she had been thinking and she scowled at him, before inching towards the corner to get a better vantage point. However, she had barely reached the corner when fresh gunfire tore through the wall, their security system clearly a lot more advanced than the intel had suggested, and then she was falling back, Romeo darting forward to grab her when she stumbled with a sharp cry.
She didn’t falter though, letting him pull her back down the corridor and through the first open door that they found. It was only when she heard the click of the door, no matter how temporary she knew such a defence would be, that she let herself stop and take stock, and it didn’t take long for her to focus on the sharp, burning pain in her side. Turning aside so that Romeo wouldn’t see, she pressed a hand to her side, unsurprised when her fingers came away bloody, and glad for the dark material of her suit as she hastily wiped the blood away. As naturally as possible she pressed an arm against her side, hoping to at least slow the bleeding, without drawing attention to the injury, knowing that they didn’t have the time to deal with it.
“Remind me to have a word with Charla about her idea of a ‘simple mission’.”
“Will do,” Romeo muttered, before sighing as he rubbed a hand across his face. “I’ll be having words with the old man myself when we get out of here.” It wasn’t the first time he’d mentioned his boss, and once again Wendy noted the odd fondness that came with it, and she filed it away, the details stopping her from focusing on the pain in her side. Romeo was moving to the door again, listening intently, and he held up a hand to stop her from making a sound as someone moved past the door in a hurry, shoulders slumping with relief when they didn’t stop. However, they both knew it was a reprieve and nothing more, soon the security forces would start searching from room. They needed to be gone by then, and Wendy was already moving, even before Romeo hissed at her. “Come on, we need to keep moving.”
However, moving had reignited the fire in her side, and despite her best attempts to hide it something must’ve shown in her expression because Romeo paused, hand on the doorknob as he studied her with a furrowed brow. “Are you okay?”
“I said I’m fine,” she snapped, grimacing in apology a second later as she realised how sharp she had been, catching his flinch, although she wouldn’t take it back. “We can’t afford to deal with it right now. Unless you want to be caught?” Seeing that he wasn’t convinced, and having reached him by now, she reached out with the hand of the arm that had been clamped to her side, touching his wrist and offering him a strained smile. “I’ll be okay, as long as we make it out of here.”
“Wendy! Wendy!” Romeo knew that he was lucky that no one had come down to check out the noise, and quiet him yet he didn’t care. He couldn’t focus on that since Wendy had stopped replying, and he hissed, as he caught his already abused hands on the metal bars, but he didn’t stop. He’d known that something was wrong with her, it had been written across her face before they’d even left that room, and while he couldn’t argue with her reasoning at the time, now he cursed himself for not forcing the issue. “Damn it,” he snarled, glaring at the metal bars that were holding him in place, before glancing towards the cameras that he had noted when they’d first been thrown in here and had forgotten about in his panic.
They knew what was happening here.
And they didn’t care. A cold kind of anger seized hold of him with that realisation, silencing his panic although he could feel it humming beneath the surface. They can see her clearly, and they’re not doing anything… A small part of him wanted to hope that meant it wasn’t as serious as he was imagining, but the fact that Wendy had gone quiet scared him more, and he straightened. He had been hoping that they could get out of this with the usual tools and methods at his disposal, but while that still might be possible, it wouldn’t in the timeframe now presented with Wendy’s injury. They might be competitors, and sometimes enemies, but he wasn’t going to let her die here. I’m going to get you out of here, he’d promised her that, and Natsu his trainer had taught him to never break a promise that he had made.
“Even at the cost of a mission?” Romeo demanded, staring wide-eyed at his teacher, startled by the fire that appeared in the older man’s eyes at the question.
“Yes,” Natsu whispered, and it seemed to Romeo that he was looking at some distant memory as his expression clouded over. “No mission is worth breaking that kind of trust. Believe me, I learned that the hard way. It was a mistake I never managed to atone for, that I will never atone for, and that is a burden I never want to see you carry.”
“Please, trust me on this,” Natsu was focused on him now, the piercing gaze holding the younger assassin in place more effectively than any weapon ever could. “If you make a promise, make sure that it was you will be able to keep, whether sooner or later.” Romeo hadn’t been able to speak under the force of that gaze, or the unusual seriousness and weight of the words, but he had nodded.
He hadn’t really understood back then, but right now, feeling the weight of his words to Wendy, he was finally beginning to understand what Natsu had meant. The mission wasn’t salvageable at this point anyway, but Wendy could still survive this. I’m going to keep my promise. He glanced at the cameras once more, knowing that he wasn’t going to have much time once they realised what was happening and that he had to make every second count. Taking a deep breath, he reached out and grasped the bars, staring at the bloodied and sore knuckles from his previous efforts and cursing himself for wasting time on such useless methods.
Moving his gaze past that point, he focused on his fingers as they curled around the bars. This was it. The reason why their company was hired for the jobs that no one else could complete, the reason why as young as he was, he was allowed out in the field. It was their greatest weapon, and secret, and he was about to reveal it to the world.
He didn’t hesitate.
Between one breath and the next sparks danced between his fingers, rapidly becoming flames that tickled his skin, as the metal beneath his hands began to glow red with the arcane heat being forced into them. Usually, he couldn’t come close to matching Natsu’s talent in this area, but the cold fury still burning in his chest, and the silence from the next cell lent him strength, and it seemed like no time at all before the bars were bending, giving way beneath his frantic efforts as he pushed them aside.
He didn’t have time to savour his success, knowing that someone had to be watching and that he probably only had as long as it took them to muster an armed response, which considering it hadn’t been long since they’d been caught, wouldn’t be hard.
“Wendy!” He was already calling, even as he slipped through the gap, he’d made and dashed across to her cell, his heart in his mouth as he found her splayed out on the ground next to the wall. A smear of red on the wall telling its own tale, and it took a second for him to focus enough to realise that he could see her chest rising and falling and make out the ragged sound of her breathing. “Damn it, Wendy. We’re going to have to talk about your definition of ‘fine’.” He snarled under his breath, hands already reaching for the bars, and the flames came quicker this time, his heart a staccato beat in his chest, as he kept half his focus on the door behind him.
The bars gave way, forced to the side as he climbed into the cell and rushed to her side. “Wendy? Wendy, can you hear me?” There was no response beyond the slight flicker of eyelashes against a pale cheek, and while it wasn’t enough, it was something and right now he would take what he could get. He wanted to look at her injury, but he could hear movement in the distance now, and he knew that there was no time. Not if he wanted to keep his promise and whispering an apology under his breath, he scooped her into his arms, staggering a little under her weight before managing to rise. It was harder to get her through the bars, and he had to use his fire again to widen the gap, his heartbeat hammering in his ears now.
He hadn’t thought about what to do next, which became abundantly clear as he came to a halt outside their cells, realising that their only route out of here, lay in the door ahead of him. The same door that was currently dulling the sound of voices and footsteps moving in their direction, and he cursed with a few words that would have had Natsu blushing, as he realised that time was not on their side.
There’s only one way out of here.
There’s only one way for me to keep my promise.
“I’m sorry Wendy, please hold on,” he whispered, glancing at her still features, before gently shifting her until she was over his shoulder, freeing one hand which he raised in front of him as the noise moved closer. Sparks danced around his fingers again, only this time they had taken on a dark, almost purplish tinge. A dark fire meant to hurt, but unlike the first time he had used these flames, his hand didn’t tremble, and the sparks danced higher as the door began to open.
I’m going to get you out of here, Wendy.
No matter what it takes.