To say Silco was in over his head was an understatement. In fact, it would come nowhere close to describing his current position. The fact of the matter was that the man had no experience with child rearing. And it wasn’t like he had someone to look back on to set an example, a precedent for how he should go about such a daunting and heavy task; His own father had seen to that a long time ago.
And so it goes without saying, Silco had no idea how to get a restless young child to go to sleep.
“Now,” he said, as softly as someone of his position and gruffness could muster, as he pulled the blanket up to Jinx’s neck, tucking her in. “That’s enough stories for tonight.”
Jinx’s small hand shot out from under the blanket, undoing the tucking in Silco had just seen to, to gently grab his hand.
“Please, Mr. Silco! Just one more story, and I promise, I’ll go to sleep!”
That was the 8th story tonight, Silco thought as he let out a tired sigh. It was getting late, and he still had work to finish up. He couldn’t spend the entire night relaying fairytales and fables; Besides… He was beginning to run out of them, seeing as he’d already told her all of the ones he could remember from his own youth. He could, of course, find a way to indulge her, as he so often did every night until she finally exhausted herself and went to sleep. But this little routine over the span of several months was beginning to take a toll on him. He wasn’t getting enough sleep. Perhaps it was time to… How did Sevika put it? “Put his foot down”.
“Not tonight, Jinx,” Silco shook his head as he tucked her back in again. “It’s late. You need to get some sleep.”
The young girl’s eyes widened, glossing over with tears as her bottom lip began to tremble. For a moment, Silco was almost swayed. But he held firm, offering her a small smile as he ruffled her hair.
“What if… What if I promise to help clean up all of my drawings I left on Ms.Sevika’s wall?”
Silco thought back to earlier in the day, when an enraged Sevika had stormed in, a cowering and sheepish looking Jinx following quickly behind as Sevika very loudly and forcefully explained that Jinx had taken it upon herself to help her “redecorate” the walls of her private quarters. Silco would have laughed, as the situation was slightly amusing… Had he not been reigning in every fiber of his being to keep himself from lashing out at Sevika as his eyes stayed fixed on Jinx’s timid form. In the end, he’d been able to diffuse the situation in a manner that appeased Sevika, comforted Jinx, and kept him from killing his most faithful guard. Jinx, under Silco’s supervision, would help to clean up the mess she’d made. And so for this desperate little attempt at getting him to stay for just one more story, Silco couldn’t help but grin, amused.
“I’m afraid you’ll be doing that either way, Dove,” He said, gently tucking a stray strand of her hair back behind her ear. Jinx clutched onto the small, raggedy rabbit toy he’d found her with those few months ago, that night in the rain. The look in her eyes told him she realized he wouldn’t be swayed, and she was coming to terms with that.
“Will you… Be in your office?” she asked quietly.
“For a little while, yes.”
“...Can I come get you if I need to?”
Silco paused. This was not the first time she had asked such a question, but it didn’t matter; It still always caught him slightly off guard. But after a moment's hesitation he nodded. It wasn’t like she’d really need him anyways, seeing as once she finally went to sleep, it would take a train running through her room to get her up. So what was the harm in giving her a little reassurance.
“Of course you can.” Jinx seemed to relax then, a soft, uneasy smile tugging at her lips as she finally settled into her bed.
“Okay… I think I can go to sleep now.”
Silco gently patted her leg as he rose, making his way to the door where he paused as a little voice called out to him one last time.
“Goodnight, Mr. Silco!” Jinx called out timidly, holding her tattered rabbit to her chest as she cuddled up under her blanket. Silco nodded, his hand gently resting on the light switch.
“Goodnight, Jinx,” He said, and after offering her a small smile, he flicked the lights off and slowly closed the door behind him, confident with the soft click of the door that she would be settled for the night, and he would be free to work in peace.
It was almost two in the morning now, when a soft tapping stirred Silco from his monotonous work of filing and organizing paperwork. He was growing tired; Perhaps it was his sleep deprived state or the fact that he’d drunk his way through a little over half a new bottle of scotch, but the words on the paper were beginning to fuse together, turning into an illegible jumble of text. His head hurt. His eyes hurt. And so it went without saying that he eagerly accepted a distraction, and bid entrance to his unknown visitor.
As he expected, the visitor was Sevika. What he had not expected was that she had with her a mug of tea, which he looked at curiously when she placed it in front of him.
“It’s for you,” she said flatly.
“Well I figured as much, but why?”
“Perhaps I’m trying to poison you.”
There was a beat of silence between the pair, both maintaining their signature stoic looks. But as usual it was Silco who broke first, an amused smirk replacing his scowl as he chuckled. Sevika did not laugh. She never did. But she offered him a smile that few got to bear witness too and that was enough for him.
“It’s an old family recipe,” she explained as Silco set aside his papers and took the warm mug in his hands. It smelled of herbs, spices. The warmth of the mug felt nice in his hands, and as he took the first sip, he sighed. This was nice. “I thought you could use something warm to drink while you work.”
“It’s lovely, thank you,” He said as he set the mug back down, picking up his paper work again. Sevika seemed to hover, and after a moment Silco realized she was waiting to be dismissed… Or permitted to stay. And seeing as he was growing tired, and the company felt nice, permission he’d grant.
“You can sit if you wish,” he said, not looking up from his work. He felt Sevika relax then, and he smiled to himself as she moved to sit across from him at his desk.
“With… All due respect sir. Don’t you think you should be getting some rest soon?” she asked as she settled into her chair. Silco glanced up at her, pausing from his work to take another sip of the tea she’d been so kind to make him.
“I appreciate your concern,” he sighed. “And I shall be going to bed soon. Once I’m done with this stack here.”
He gestured to the pile of papers in front of him, and Sevika nodded silently. They were quiet for a while, comfortably so, as Silco worked and as Sevika fiddled with her mechanical arm. Until finally she asked another question.
“How's the girl doing?”
Silco, who had been writing out his signature, stopped mid stroke, his pen leaving a small ink blot where his hand had stopped. They had made it a point not to discuss Jinx with one another. Sevika had made it clear to Silco from the beginning, she didn’t think taking her in was a good idea.
“It’s just another person to feed” she’d say. “Another person to look after, and she needs more looking after than the rest of us. Boss… I don’t think we can really handle dealing with a kid right now.”
But Silco had remained steadfast in his decision. She’d been abandoned once already… He wasn’t going to be yet another disappointment to her. Not when the world could already be so cruel and uncaring; He wished not to be yet another pain she was to endure in this lifetime. Besides… She’d seeked him out. That night in the rain, she’d clung to him so fiercely, her arms wrapped tightly around him, her little nails desperately clinging to the wet cloth of his vest as the heavens poured down upon them. And he wasn’t heartless… How could he turn away such a desperate child in her moment of need?
“It makes you look weak,” Sevika had snapped at him from the confines of her sick bed, a week or two after she’d lost her arm and he’d taken the young girl in. “It taints your image-”
“I don’t give a damn what it does to my image or what it makes me look like!” He’d bellowed, grown sick and tired of hearing her lecture him. The room had been quiet for several moments after his outburst, and seeing her expression, how her brows furrowed, how her tired sunken eyes widened, had made him feel a sliver of guilt. After all, he wasn’t heartless. And he felt, in a way, he owed this woman a great deal, considering what she’d sacrificed to preserve his life. But then again-
He knew what it felt like to be seen as a burden. Another mouth to feed, an unneeded bother. He knew what it was like to feel unwanted. He knew what it was like to be abandoned. And so the rage he felt for this broken child who had thrown herself into his arms in her weakest moment, the anger he harbored towards Sevika for even suggesting that they should dispose of her was not just for the young Jinx who was now under his care; It was also for a younger version of himself. A version of himself who, unlike Jinx, had not had someone to fall on in his weakest moment; No one to stick up for him, to put their foot down and say ‘no’. No one to stand up and say that they wouldn’t allow him to be thrown away as though he were nothing but a piece of trash to be discarded. For his younger self… For Jinx, he would be that person. He would not allow her to be discarded as he had been.
He’d calmed himself, though he’d still been shaking when he spoke.
“Don’t think for a second that I don’t appreciate all you’ve done for me,” He’d said, eyes fixed at his feet in fear that he’d lash out should he raise his gaze to meet Sevika’s. “But don’t forget your place. I am capable of making my own decisions. I don’t need you to pick them for me.”
Sevika had looked hurt at his words, but at that point, he’d been too angry to really care. Her lips had tightened as she’d shifted her eyes to look at the limp hand that rested in her lap.
“I just hope you don’t regret this.”
And that’s where the conversation ended. That had been almost six months ago, and in that time, a silent agreement had arisen between the pair; They did not speak of Jinx, or the fact that with each passing day, though he had yet to admit it to himself, Silco was slowly allowing this child into his heart. He was coming to regard her as his own daughter.
Silco knew Sevika disapproved. But frankly, he didn’t care. He’d meant what he’d said that day. He was an adult, capable of making his own decisions, and he didn’t need his underlings to question him. Luckily, Sevika respected him enough to not question him, at least to his face, and she’d remained civil with the young girl (for the most part).
And everything had been fine up to this very moment, in which for the first time in months, Sevika directly addressed Jinx to Silco. And so he sat for a moment, pondering her question, unsure if this was an inquiry out of genuine concern or if perhaps his right hand woman had grown brazen enough to bring up her thoughts on the matter to him again. He didn’t particularly feel like fighting tonight, and so with a fiery purpose, he narrowed his eyes as he looked up at her, and spoke in a tone bordering on harsh. He would squash this disagreement before it could even begin.
“She’s fine. Why do you ask?” He replied curtly. Sevika did not flinch away from Silco’s harshness, instead leaning back in her chair, relaxed. She shrugged.
Silco’s nose scrunched slightly as he too leaned back in his chair.
“She…,” Sevika trailed off for a moment. She looked as though she was picking her words carefully. “She mentioned something to me today. That I wasn’t sure if you were aware of.”
Silco softened slightly then. Still cautious if this was bait for an argument, he bit the inside of his cheek.
“What’d she say?” he prompted. Sevika pursed her lips and frowned slightly.
“I’m… Not great with kids, sir. So you’ll have to forgive me if I handled this poorly. But today, after the… You know. The little ‘art’ fiasco. While you were inspecting the damage, I was out in the hall with Jinx alone. I don’t remember how it came up but… She mentioned something about having nightmares to me. Like… Vivid nightmares. Said they keep her up at night. I wasn’t in the mood to really deal with it, nor did I really know how to, so I told her she should talk to you, but she said something about not wanting to bother you. I… Wasn’t sure if she mentioned it to you or not. But. I felt like you needed to know.”
No. She hadn’t. Silco felt a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. Had he made her feel like he was unapproachable in some manner? He felt as though she’d grown rather comfortable with him over these past few months. So why was she not comfortable coming to him with this?
“I’m sorry I didn’t tell ya’ sooner. I was so worked up about Jinx’s paint job I… I don’t know. I’m sorry.”
His eyes snapped up to look at Sevika. He felt a pang of guilt for suspecting she might have been trying to get a rise out of him; The concern in her eyes was real, and he could see that now. He shifted in his chair and sighed heavily. He felt exhausted.
“No worries. You did the right thing. I’ll be sure to talk to Jinx in the morning about this… Nightmare business. Thank you for telling me.”
He leaned forward, straightening the loose papers on his desk before he looked back up at the woman across from him.
“I think… I’ll be going to bed now.”
Sevika nodded, standing slowly as Silco finished organizing his desk before reaching across to click the lamp off. He rose then too, stretching through the soft ache of his legs and back from hours of sitting, before he accompanied Sevika to the door. He closed it behind him once they were out in the hall, withdrew a key and locked it. Pocketing the key, he spoke.
The stern woman smiled slightly.
“Goodnight, sir. I shall see you in the morning.”
She’d turned then, and begun to walk away when Silco called out to her again.
She stopped, and turned on her heel to face him.
“Thank you,” he nodded his head towards the office door. “For the tea.”
Sevika didn’t say anything else, only nodded before once again she turned to return to her quarters. Silco stayed where he was, hand resting on the keys in his pocket, until the sound of Sevika’s footsteps faded into nothingness, and he was alone with the silence.
He paused at her door, hand resting gently on the door knob. He wasn’t sure why he’d traveled all the way down here, considering Jinx’s room was in the opposite direction of his own. Perhaps… Sevika’s news about her conversation with little Jinx had made him concerned. But now that he was here, he felt foolish. He didn’t wish to wake her. But he also wanted to be sure she was alright.
So he listened. He placed his ear to the old wooden door, and listened. Nothing.
Of course she was fine. He was just being paranoid.
He let go of the knob, and after a moment's hesitation, turned and began to walk in the direction of his own room. Jinx was fine. He needn’t worry. He’d discuss the nightmare business with her in the morning after they both got a good night’s sleep. For now he’d let her rest, and he’d see to it that he got some rest as well. Afterall, this matter could wait. Couldn’t it?
The stench of burning flesh is not a smell many people are familiar with. Most people are lucky to live an entire lifetime without knowing the putrid smell. The sickly sweet smog, so thick and choking it makes you gag. Powder hadn’t known what the smell had been at the time. All she’d known was the immense pride and excitement she’d felt as she’d run through the burning rubble, desperate to find her family, to give them the good news. Her monkey bomb had finally worked! She wasn’t a complete screw up, she could help! She could be useful.
When she’d found Vi though… And she’d seen the crumpled broken bodies of her brothers crushed under the fallen rubble she’d caused, and Vander… Vander’s mutated, grotesque deformed corpse, skin already turning black from where the flames were beginning to lick. The smell had truly hit her then. The sickly sweet stench. And with the realization of what she’d done toppling down on her like a ton of bricks paired with the stench of the bodies of her loved ones' charred remains, she’d almost lost all of the contents of her stomach. But Vi had other plans.
“You did this?”
Powder clutched Vi’s rabbit to her chest, stomach bile and a half eaten sandwich threatening to come up as her throat tightened with tears. No… this couldn’t be real, this couldn’t be happening.
“I… I only wanted to help-” her eyes landed on Claggor’s goggles, splashed with blood, laying in the thickening mud. Oh god… This was real. This was all real.
“I only wanted to help! I ONLY WANTED TO HELP I ONLY WANTED TO-”
“I told you to stay. Away.”
No… No please-
“I TOLD YOU TO STAY AWAY-!”
Powder yelped as Vi punched her, the force of which knocked her back where she landed hard in the softening earth. But the pain in her heart, the pain in her mind, was deafening compared to the stinging of her cheek.
“WHY DID YOU LEAVE ME?!”
Sharp nails dug into the skin of her face as Vi grabbed her.
“BECAUSE YOU’RE A JINX! MYLO WAS RIGHT!”
Jinx… Jinx, Jinx, Jinx, Jinx, Jinx, Jinx, Jinx, Jinx. That’s right… That's all she was. A jinx. A screw up. She ruined everything. But just because that was the truth didn’t mean it didn’t hurt any less to hear it from the mouth of the person she loved most.
“NO, NO, NO, VIOLET, PLEASE!”
Her nose was bleeding. She could feel the warmth of it drip down onto her lip, but she didn’t care. Nothing matters when it feels like the world is ending.
“It should have been you.”
Powder’s eyes widened.
“What… What are you saying?”
This wasn’t right.
Vi’s eyes narrowed. They looked so dark. This didn’t feel like her sister.
“It should have been you who died. Not Claggor. Not Mylo. Not Vander. You.”
Powder grabbed her sister’s wrist, desperate now to get her to release her hold on her. This wasn’t real. Vi hadn’t said that. She’d left. Powder wasn’t sure which was worse honestly; Hearing Vi say she wished she’d died, or Vi just leaving her. But she knew now this wasn’t real. She was having a nightmare. And she knew what was coming next. She wanted to wake up before it happened.
“NO, NO YOU’RE WRONG, YOU DON’T MEAN THAT!”
Vi tightened her hold on Powder’s face, her nails beginning to break the delicate skin of her sister’s cheeks.
“I WISH YOU WERE FUCKING DEAD!”
She hated this. Why? Why did she have to relive this twisted version of this haunting experience? She already thought about the real events almost every second of the day? Why did she have to relive this alternate version of it at night? Was this her punishment? Perhaps… She deserved this.
“Maybe I should just fucking kill you myself,” Vi sneered as she began to raise her fist.
“VIOLET PLEASE! STOP PLEASE!”
But there was no reasoning with her. Vi wasn’t listening. Just as she went to throw her first punch, of which Powder assumed would be many, just like clock work, Powder-
She was crying. Sweat beading her forehead as she tightly clutched the rabbit doll that was the only thing she had left to remember her sister by. She felt like she couldn’t breathe. Like she was drowning.
The room felt so dark now. She couldn’t see anything. But she felt like she could hear whispers. It should have been you it should have been you it should have been you-
“Stop it!” she whimpered, clasping her hands over her ears, but that didn’t stop the whispering. She felt like she wasn’t alone but that didn’t comfort her. It only frightened her more.
She didn’t want to be alone, not with these whispers, not in this darkness.
She needed Silco.
She’d been to his quarters once before. He’d shown her how to get to his room the second night she’d been here, so she’d know where to find him if she needed anything. And for six months, she’d made good of her silent vow to not wake him up in the middle of the night, even when she probably should have gone to get him. But tonight, she needed comfort, and he was the only person she felt she could go to. And so, the silent vow had to be broken.
Feeling the cool stones beneath her bare feet, Jinx padded along the long, dark corridors, doing her best to remember all of the twists and turns, which halls to take, in order to find Silco. All the while, clinging to her rabbit as a feeling of guilt began to take hold.
"You know," a little voice in her head spoke up, "It’s not too late to turn around and go back."
For a moment, Jinx considered it. She hated being a burden. She knew Mr. Silco put up with her. She knew he probably was very tired of her needs and wants, of how she liked to sleep on his desk and hang from the rafters above his head in his office; Her clinginess was probably annoying to him. Besides, she’d already caused him a lot of trouble for today, after drawing all over Ms. Sevika’s walls. Surely… It would be better if she didn’t bother him now, while he slept.
But then she remembered how dark the room was. The whispers. The feeling of Vi’s nails digging into her face. It should have been you it should have been you it should have-
“No-,” Jinx hissed as she hit her head with her palm. She wanted everything to be quiet. She didn’t want to be alone. She needed to get Silco.
And so she continued on, following the dim glow of the little light fixtures that were fixed into the ceiling.
Left. Straight. Right. Up the stairs. Left. Right. Straight. Right. Straight. Left. Straight. Right-
She stopped at his door, eyes already brimming with tears again, her lips trembling as her throat tightened. Maybe she shouldn’t have come. Maybe she should turn back. She didn’t want to bother him anymore than she already did.
"He said to come get him if you needed anything," another little voice piped up suddenly, and Jinx felt a shaky breath catch in her throat. That’s right. He told her to come get him if she needed anything. And she did. She needed someone, an adult, to hold her hand. To hug her and tell her it was okay. Silco would do that. Wouldn’t he?
She reached up, turned the doorknob, and stood rigid as the door swung open with a creak.
There’s someone in the room.
There’s someone in the room.
Silco didn’t dream. Not typically. And yet even in sleep, there was a voice, a feeling telling him he wasn’t alone anymore.
They’re coming to the bed.
They’re standing over you now.
Wake up wake up wake up wake up wake up wake up wake up-
Without opening his eyes, instinctively he reached for the knife under his pillow, and in one fluid motion, he’d grabbed his assailant by the neck of their shirt, and held his blade to their throat.
Of course, one can imagine the strange mix of relief and horror he felt when he realized it hadn’t been an assassin sent to kill him in his sleep; But rather a now cowering, shaking, Jinx, who looked up at him with scared, wide eyes filled with tears.
He was a fucking idiot.
Immediately, he let go of her, panting heavily as the adrenaline began to catch up with him. He dropped the knife to the floor, and felt a part of him break when Jinx winced at the sound of it hitting the ground. He’d fucked up. Severely. He’d fucked up.
“Jinx,” he said, his voice shaking, as he lifted his hands to show her he wasn’t going to hurt her. “I am… So sorry. I didn’t mean to-”
She was crying now, choked sobs escaping her throat as her little clenched fists began to rub her eyes. He’d scared her. Had it been anyone else, he would have had them killed for instilling such a fear into the little girl that stood before him. But it had been his own doing, and he wanted nothing more than to make things right. Staying exactly where he was to prevent frightening her anymore than he already had, he quickly went about comforting the poor child.
“Jinx! Jinx, I’m so sorry dear! I didn’t mean to scare you! You frightened me, that’s all. I’m so sorry, I know I’ve scared you, but I promise, I’m not going to hurt you, see look-” with his foot he kicked the knife he had slept with for almost two decades now under his bed, more than happy to never touch it again. “Okay? I’m not going to hurt you, I-”
“I’M S-S-SORRY!” the little girl wailed in between deep shaking breaths as she sobbed. His heart dropped. Why on earth was she apologizing? This wasn’t her fault, it was his.
“Sorry?” He asked in utter disbelief. “Sorry for-”
Within an instance, she’d lunged at him as she had done the night they met, knocking him back onto the bed, but remaining locked around his midsection as she sobbed. He didn’t know what to do. He was still half asleep and this was all so overwhelming. So he did the only thing he could think to do and quickly wrapped his arms around her, holding her gently to his chest as she cried into his neck. Softly, he rocked her as he imagined one would a baby, shushing her gently as he rubbed her back and patted her hair.
“It’s okay… It’s okay, I’m here. I’m sorry. I’m sorry I scared you,” he said softly to her as she sniffled and gasped for air. He kept repeating this little mantra, still rocking her, still rubbing her back and patting her hair. Slowly, she began to breathe again, and her sobs were reduced to just little sniffles and whimpers. Silco sighed and stopped the rocking motion he’d been carrying on, hugging her tightly as he ruffled her hair.
“I’m so sorry Jinx. You came to me for something, and I frightened you. I should have known better than to-,” He took in a deep shaking breath of his own. “Do you think you can forgive me? I promise you, that won’t happen again.”
Jinx was quiet for a moment.
“Promise?” Her little voice quivered, and Silco nodded quickly.
“Yes,” He said as the little girl untangled herself from their embrace. Gently, he tucked a stray piece of hair out of her face and brushed his thumb under her eye to sweep away new tears. “I promise.”
The knife would be left under the bed to collect dust, he decided then and there. He didn’t care if that made him vulnerable to nightly assailants, he couldn’t risk having a repeat situation like this. He’d forget the knife and he’d come up with a way for Jinx to safely wake him. He wouldn’t be able to live with himself if he ever made Jinx that afraid again. And Jinx, thankfully, seemed to recognize his sincerity.
She sniffed, and rubbed her nose on her sleeve.
Silco smiled just slightly. He still felt like a piece of shit. He knew it wasn’t fully his fault. Growing up in The Lanes had taught him to always be prepared; Night was when you were most vulnerable, and now with his position, that risk had all but doubled. But still, defensive impulsive or not, he could not allow himself to attack or frighten this little girl he’d taken in, especially when it was obvious that perhaps sometimes, she’d need his company at night. And with the little knife fiasco somewhat settled now, his attention turned to just that; Why was she here in the first place? But before he could ask, Jinx spoke first.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you. I knew I should have just stayed in my room-”
“What? No!” Silco quickly interjected. “Of course not. Jinx, dear, you have nothing to apologize for, you did exactly as I instructed you. That… My reaction wasn’t your fault. It was mine. And I don’t want you to feel like you can’t come to me.”
He suddenly thought back to what Sevika had told him. About the nightmares.
“Jinx…,” he sighed. He held his hand out to her, and gently cradled her hand when she placed it into his. “I want you to know that you can come to me with anything, okay? No matter the time, no matter the place. If you need me, come find me. Always.”
Jinx’s brows furrowed slightly, as though she didn’t fully believe what he was saying.
“I’m not… A burden?” she asked earnestly. Silco gently squeezed her hand. He knew this feeling all too well. The fear of… Being a nuisance to those around him. The feeling that his wants and needs were so insignificant that they just had to be off putting to everyone else and surely, he wasn’t worth helping, or listening to. And he wanted nothing more than to tell Jinx that this wasn’t the case.
“No, dear. You’re not a burden. Not to me. I want nothing more than to help you with whatever you need. You never need to worry about burdening me with your concerns and troubles,” gently he cupped her face. “That’s why I’m here. To help you.”
Jinx’s eyes began to tear up again, and she sniffled a little as she squeezed his hand back. Silco, who had neglected to change into sleepwear before he’d nodded off, withdrew a handkerchief from his breast pocket and went about gently wiping away the new tears that were beginning to fall.
“Shhh, It’s alright. It’s okay,” he whispered, doing his best to comfort her. “What happened? Before you came in. What did you need me for? I’m here to help you.”
Little Jinx scooted closer then, and Silco realized that once again, she wished to hug him. And though Silco was not one to usually be physically affectionate, he allowed her to wrap her arms around him and he in turn wrapped his around her, gently rubbing her back in small circles as she sniffled.
“I had a nightmare,” her little voice said finally. Immediately, Silco thought of Sevika, but he waited, not wanting to interrupt her before she was finished. After a moment of silence though, he prompted her.
“Would you like to talk about it?” Jinx’s hold on him tightened. “You don’t have to if you don’t want to.”
Another moment of silence.
“It was about my sister… And the night she left me.”
Instinctively, Silco felt himself hold her closer, as though he were trying to shield her from something unseen.
Jinx shifted, resting her head against his chest as she continued to sniffle softly.
“It was the night of the explosion. I saw… Claggor. And Mylo. Vander-”
Silco grimaced slightly at the mention of his old friend, but he remained quiet as Jinx continued.
Jinx’s grip tightened on the fabric of Silco’s vest, and instinctively, he gave her a reassuring squeeze.
“It’s okay,” he hummed as he began to stroke her hair. “You don’t have to-”
“She didn’t leave in the nightmare,” Jinx’s voice shook, and Silco could feel her begin to tremble in his arms. “She… She said it should have been me. That I should have died. She said she was going to kill me.”
Jinx had begun to cry again, and she pulled back now to look up at Silco with puffy, sad eyes.
“Mr. Silco… Should I have died that night?”
“No-,” Silco said quickly, almost desperate. A strange feeling of protectiveness had taken hold of him now, and he continued to hold her close as he shook his head. “No, Jinx. It was just a nightmare.”
She weeped into his neck now, hot sticky tears coating his skin but he didn’t mind. He only wished to comfort her. And so he held her close and he held her tight. God, he didn’t want to let her go. He knew how earth shattering pain like this was. How it made you feel like it was eating you from the inside out; Not too unlike the river toxins. But he wanted her to know she wasn’t alone. He wasn’t going to let her feel this way on her own. He wasn’t going to leave her.
And so he held her. He said nothing as she cried, occasionally muttering her sister’s name, and as he held her this sense of rage began to bubble within him. He’d felt anger like this before, years and years ago when Vander had betrayed his trust. It was a sense of loathing. Of hate. For Violet?
Yes, he realized suddenly. He hated Violet. He hated her for the same reason he’d hated Vander. How dare she just abandon her sister? How dare she betray her trust, how dare she just discard her like she was nothing? How dare she hurt his child-
His good eye fluttered open as the thought bounced around in his brain. His. Had he really thought that? Had he come to regard Jinx as his own?
A pang of fear, cold and jarring grabbed hold of him as his eyes shifted to look at the girl he held in his arms, her cries slowly softening. This… Was frightening for him. He’d already established and had made it abundantly clear he was intending on keeping Jinx, on looking after her. And it was only now that he realized what this entailed; He was to raise her into adulthood. And the thought terrified him.
Silco… had not had a father. At least one he could rely on. One he could look back on as an example. What he remembered of his father before escaping to run amuck with Vander in his teens, wasn’t pleasant. His father had been a large, gruff man, prone to drinking, with a violent streak. And he hated Silco. He’d made sure his son knew of this every chance he got. And in turn, Silco had grown to hate his father.
At one point in his young adulthood, Silco had made a promise to himself. He never intended on becoming a father. And he’d made that vow for the same reason he sat here now with a broken, weeping child in his arms, scared to his core. He didn’t know how to be a father.
The realization made him want to throw up. His arms felt weak, his hands clammy, his throat dry. But he didn’t throw up. He just continued to hold Jinx as reality seemed to settle in on him. It… Would be okay.
Maybe he didn’t know how to be a father. But that didn’t mean he couldn’t try. He already had one foot in the door, didn’t he? Obviously, he wanted to protect Jinx. He wanted to comfort her, to make her happy. To let her know that there was someone in this fucked up world that wouldn’t hurt her. That wouldn’t betray her, that wouldn’t see her as just her flaws. But someone who would care for her, would be a soft place to fall. Because it was true. Silco was not heartless. Silco… Cared about this little girl. This child. His child. And wasn’t she worth trying for?
And so even though he was still scared, Silco breathed steadily again. He would try his best. He would do everything in his power to make her feel loved. To make her happy. And he would start here and now by comforting her.
“Jinx… Do you want to know something about nightmares?” He asked, not even realizing he was talking. He felt Jinx move her head so she could look up at him. She didn’t say anything but he took her moving as confirmation that she was listening, waiting to hear what he had to say.
“Nightmares,” Silco continued. “Have a way of taking our darkest thoughts, our most painful memories, and turning them into something worse.”
He paused, taking his time to choose his own words carefully. He’d had his share of nightmares in the past. Dreams in which… He hadn’t resurfaced that day in the river. And he’d also wondered if perhaps, it would have been better if the memory had ended that way. But he did not wish for Jinx to feel the same.
“They take these thoughts and feelings that we have, that a cruel part of yourself creates, and they make you believe that what people say about you is true. That perhaps… Things would have been better should they have played out in another way.”
Without thinking, he leaned his head against hers.
“But that’s the thing, Jinx. Nightmares are just that. Bad dreams. They aren’t real, and the things they tell us aren’t true. But that doesn’t make them any less frightening or upsetting… Does it?”
Jinx shook her head in agreement.
“And it’s okay. It’s okay if you’re frightened or upset after a nightmare, even if you know it’s not real. Nightmares are meant to be upsetting, I’m afraid. But, Jinx, dear,” He let go of her then and shifted so he could look her in her eyes. “Don’t ever think for a second that what your nightmares tell you is true. If you start to believe them, come find me. Always. And I’ll help you chase the shadows away.”
Curiously, Jinx smiled at him. Her face was still wet with tears, and it did not surprise him when she held her arms out to him for an embrace which he warmly accepted.
“You’re safe here, Jinx,” He said softly. “You’re wanted. You’re not a burden. I’m here for you, okay? I promise.”
They sat in silence for several minutes. Silco began to feel the weight of tiredness settle in on him. He could feel himself beginning to drift but he made himself stay awake; He wouldn’t rest until he was sure Jinx was alright.
“Thank you,” Jinx’s small voice said suddenly.
“For everything,” was the young girl's response. Silco hummed softly, his brows furrowing. He didn’t have the heart to tell her he didn’t think he deserved her thanks. The silence fell over them again.
“I’m sleepy,” Jinx yawned as she rubbed her eyes. “Can… Can I stay here? Please?”
Silco just a little over a year ago would have said no; That was out of the question, and he would have sent her back to her room without a second thought. But her voice was so pleading and anxious, and he still had a strong sense of fatherly protectiveness. In the span of half a year, he felt as though he’d changed more than most change in a lifetime. And so he sighed.
“Of course you can.”
It was a little shy past ten the next morning. Sevika stood outside her boss’ door. She knew there was a possibility that she’d receive an earful if she woke him up. But they had things to do and she’d also be lectured if she let him sleep too late. She huffed, and slowly opened his bedroom door.
Had someone relayed what she’d seen to her, she would have called them a liar and given them a swift kick or two to teach them a lesson. And yet, here it was before her eyes.
In the time that she’d known Silco, he’d proven to her that he was a serious man. Born and raised in the slums of the undercity, he’d been hardened by a cruel and uncaring world who’d done nothing but kicked him to the dirt and spit in his face. He could be quick to anger. He was incredibly stubborn, and he had a penchant for violence.
And yet here he was. Sleeping peacefully, his chest slowly rising and falling with each breath. Tenderly held in his arms was a little girl with messy, blue hair, sleeping just as soundly. The scene reminded her of her own father; Of simpler times when things felt safe and warm even in such a dark world. And Sevika smiled.
Without a second thought, she closed the door behind her softly, and after a moment of silent thinking, she turned and departed.
The boss and his daughter could afford to sleep in for one morning.