Binding Moonlight

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Chapter 5 (v.1) - Chapter 5

Submitted: January 08, 2019

Reads: 13

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Submitted: January 08, 2019

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“Have you talked to the other kid yet?” Tobi asked as Adonis joined them for lunch.

Swallowing her mouthful, Nrekeeka nodded. “Yeah, I spoke with him earlier. We're meeting with him later today.”

“Where?” Leaning forward and crossing his arms on the table, Tobi watched Adonis. The man's movements were so smooth and comfortable, but Tobi saw he was hardly at ease.

“His manor.”

Tobi choked on his coffee. “Manor?” he coughed.

“Yeah. He lives out in the country in an enormous manor house,” answered Nrekeeka, her lips curling in a smirk. “I thought while we go see Mr. Sheridan, we could let Adonis explore the building. Let you check everything out without us around,” she added, flicking her gaze toward Adonis.

“And double as security in case any unwanted guests drop by,” grumbled Tobi.

“You are expecting a problem?” Adonis asked, regarding Tobi.

“No, but it doesn't hurt to be prepared. Since Robyn knows we're after the cure now, he may try something.” Shrugging, Tobi pushed himself to his feet. He took his dishes to the dishwasher and leaned on the counter. “Plus it wouldn't hurt for you to get a feel for the layout of the building and surrounding area today by doing patrols or something.”

“I doubt he'd go out of his way to cause trouble. Robyn is too smart to be childish,” replied Nrekeeka.

“Even smart people do stupid things,” said Adonis, staring into his coffee.

Nodding, Tobi rolled his eyes. “Isn't that the truth.”

Shrugging, Nrekeeka rose effortlessly from her chair. “Either way, we had better get going or we'll never make it home before nighttime. The drive is a good two hours one way.”

“Serious?” Tobi eyed the blonde incredulously. Her nod made Tobi shake his head. “Holy crap. Well, I guess we'll be going then, Adonis. Feel free to use any of the training rooms in the basement. The first four digits of your master code will unlock the small-arms safe if you feel like using the target range,” he explained, fishing his start card from his pocket and standing up straight.

“Thank you,” Adonis replied with a sharp nod.

Tobi gave him a little finger wave and followed Nrekeeka. As soon as they were outside, he raced past her to his car.

Rolling her eyes at him, she walked across the lot. “You know, I have no clue if you're more eager to leave because it's a long trip, or because you get to drive your car without any traffic around for once.”

The grin on Tobi's face was telling, if not a little contagious. “It isn't often I get to use her to her full potential!”

“Wow. I just heard Shelsea's voice so clearly in my head saying Ugh! You are such a boy!” chuckled Nrekeeka.

“I did too, to tell you the truth. As soon as the words left my mouth. She always said it like it was a bad thing!”

“She was just getting to the point where she didn't mind the boyish things so much before she got sick.”

Tobi slid his card into the slot to start the car. Exhaling heavily, he eased the vehicle off of the parking pad. “We really have to stop talking about Shelsea like she's dead. She's not dead and we're going to make sure she gets better. It's the whole reason we're suddenly pretending we know what we're doing, remember?”

Slouching in her seat, Nrekeeka's shoulders fell. “I know, but lately it's easier to use the past tense...I don't want to get my hopes up in case we fail, y'know?”

“Nobody knows better than me, 'Keeks. But I'm not gonna let you back out on me now. I agreed to help you even though we've got no plan, no experience, and we're working with one, maybe two complete strangers. We are seeing this through to the end, understand?” He kept his eyes on their airspace as he spoke. His voice was flat, his brow furrowed, and the corners of his mouth curved down just enough to make him appear angry though he was not.

“I have no plans of backing out, Tobi. I'm just trying to cover my bases, is all,” countered Nrekeeka.

Nodding, Tobi turned the car onto another road, heading towards the edge of the city. “I gotcha, but do try and stay positive for me, okay?”

The corner of her mouth curled upward. “Yes, sir.”

“You're teasing me again.”

Raising her eyebrows, Nrekeeka regarded him with wide-eyed innocence. “Am I?”

Tobi let out a bark of laughter, grinning from ear to ear. “God, we're ridiculous.”

“Yeah, we are,” Nrekeeka admitted, chuckling as well. “Okay, new rule; no more talking like Shelsea isn't here and no more negativity!”

“Hey, I blame you for all of the negativity. I'm totally Mr. Positive over here.”

“Well Mr. Positive, did you know Shelsea has the biggest crush on you?” Nrekeeka gave him a sideways glance, one brow quirked. Her sister would probably murder her for telling, but it was worth it just to see Tobi's reaction.

Tobi's jaw dropped, and his eyebrows shot upward. “What? You're lying,” he told her, narrowing his eyes.

“Afraid not.”

“She couldn't possibly! She treats me like a twelve-year-old, for one thing. And she constantly picks on me.”

“Remember those jeans she gave you for your birthday?”

Tobi's shoulders became stiff. The jeans in question were low-rise, snug, and stylishly frayed in patches at the knees and on the thighs. They were still hanging in his closet. “Yeah...I see where you're coming from now.”

“Are you really surprised, though? You charm everyone into having a crush on you.”

Sliding his gaze toward her and licking his lips, he slowly raised an eyebrow. “Are you included?”

Heat rose in Nrekeeka's cheeks and she gaped indignantly. “Don't be ridiculous! I am impervious to your charm.”

“Aw, too bad,” he teased.

Nrekeeka punched him in the shoulder. “Just drive, Romeo.”

“Yes ma'am!”  he exclaimed, grinning playfully.

Hanging her head, Nrekeeka let out a long-suffering sigh. This was going to be a long day.

 

***

 

Shutting down his car and pulling the start card from the slot, Tobi and Nrekeeka sat and stared at the manor. The two-story building was brick and stone, no doubt one of the first houses built on the planet. Plant life threatened to take over the walls, climbing trellises, and clinging to uneven stonework. The window trim looked freshly painted, practically glowing white under the yard lights. Three wide steps led up to the enormous double doors at the entrance.

“I can very easily say I have never seen grass this green,” said Tobi, admiring what he could see of the expansive lawn as they walked up the cobblestone drive to the mansion. The trees in the front of the house were perfectly pruned, and all the other plants were healthy and vibrant. It was picturesque.

“Are you guys coming inside, or would you rather ogle my house all day?” someone called from the doorway.

“Oh! Sorry to keep you waiting, Mr. Sheridan,” Nrekeeka apologized.

The kid shook his head, grinning as he let them into the foyer. “Don't worry about it. And please, call me Theo. I'm sorry for not meeting you in the city, but I have no way of getting there.”

“It's okay. It's nice to get out to the country once in a while,” replied Nrekeeka.

“Shit, kid. You must be loaded,” Tobi observed, trying to take in the entire lobby at once. Shining tile covered the floor, partially obscured by a new runner trailing to the large staircase dominating the space. A few doors were scattered around the side and back walls, leading off into the manor. Paintings of people, objects, and landscapes decorated the walls, and a larger-than-life canvas adorned the wall at the top of the stairs.

“Tobi!”

Theo laughed, crossing his arms over his skinny chest and shrugging. “It's fine. Yes, I'm quite wealthy. I inherited the property and my fortune from my parents. From what I understand, it's old money, from well before people left Earth.”

“That's really old money,” replied Tobi, whistling his appreciation. “So, what's the story? Bored rich kid looking for excitement?”

Nrekeeka's jaw hit the floor, appalled at Tobi's words.

The young man didn't share Nrekeeka's offense. “I suppose that's one way of putting it. Why don't we go into the study and I'll answer whatever questions you may have, okay?”

“Sounds good,” Nrekeeka replied, shooting a glare at Tobi before he could say anything else. He shrugged, stuffing his hands into his pockets.

Smiling up at Tobi, Theo turned and escorted them through one of the doors on the right side of the lobby. A long corridor with beige paint and wood paneling on the walls, maroon carpet on the floor, and arched white-trimmed windows stretched out before them. The occasional table with a potted plant or painting on the wall relieved the monotony. Theo guided them past the first bend in the hall, turned down the second and let them into a room.

Inside, the room was occupied by an oversized, solid wood desk stained a deep red-brown, matching chairs, a couch pushed against one wall and a few full bookcases. The desk and office chair sat before a floor to ceiling window, overlooking an enclosed garden in full bloom. The office walls matched those of the hall with beige paint on the top half and dark wood paneling on the bottom, separated by a chair rail.

“Please have a seat,” said Theo, indicating the padded chairs as he sat down behind the desk. “Can I get you anything?” he asked, hand hovering over the intercom button.

Nrekeeka shook her head, sitting in one chair while Tobi flopped onto the overstuffed couch. “No, thank you.”

“I'm good,” Tobi replied with a vague wave of his hand.

Theo took his hand off the button and leaned back in his chair, propping his feet on the corner of his desk. He crossed his arms over his chest, making his suit jacket wrinkle at the seams. The outfit didn't suit his expressive violet eyes and layered brown hair. He seemed like he would have been more comfortable in torn jeans and a tee shirt or hooded sweater, with scuffed sneakers instead of dress shoes.

“You live alone here, kid?” Tobi asked, draping an arm over the back of the couch.

Shrugging, the teen frowned. “Sort of. Most of the staff actually live here as well, though you wouldn't know it for looking. The building is old, and actually has a servant wing towards the rear of the main house.”

“Not something you really see any more,” observed Tobi. His parents employed a few people, but they all had their own homes.

“No, I know, but I can't do the upkeep myself, and it seems silly to make them drive out here every day. Some of them have been here since before my parents married and it makes the place less lonely,” Theo explained. There was a brief flicker of sadness in his eyes before he shook his head and gave them another one of his bright smiles. “But I feel like I'm interviewing you instead of the other way around!”

“Sorry. Tobi is being rude,” apologized Nrekeeka.

“He said I could ask questions, so I'm asking questions!” Tobi protested.

“It's fine, really. It's refreshing to see some honesty. Tobi, was it?”

He nodded.

“Even if for some reason this interview doesn't work out Tobi, I would still very much like to be your friend,” Theo said, eyes sparkling.

Tobi's eyes grew wide. “Uh, yeah...sure.”

Sitting up straight, Theo gave a sharp nod. “Good! Now, Miss. Seldon—”

“Nrekeeka, please.”

“—Nrekeeka, then. I know there were probably thousands of people you could have picked besides me, so I was grateful for your call.”

Crossing one leg over the other, Nrekeeka smiled. “Honestly, the main thing I noticed on your profile was the words talent for cooking. I'm not very good, but Tobi's food is nearly poisonous.”

“It's not that bad!” complained Tobi.

“So, you're basically interested in hiring me as a chef?” Theo asked, grinning as his gaze slid from Tobi to Nrekeeka.

“Your Panacea mutation is a perk, too,” answered Tobi. He curled a piece of hair behind his ear and propped one ankle on the opposite knee.

“I do hope I won't need to use it on a regular basis.”

“Actually, I'm hoping it'll be easy to recover the Amaran cure and no one will get hurt at all,” said Nrekeeka.

Theo nodded. “I'm curious as to why the scientist needs to keep the cure for himself in the first place. It's not like he's actually getting anything out of it, is he?”

“He's got to be planning to do something with it, I just don't know what it is,” admitted Nrekeeka.

“So kid, why exactly are you interested in taking a job? I mean, it certainly looks like you've already got everything you could want here,” said Tobi, pushing himself off the couch and shoving his hands into his pockets.

Theo scowled. “You'd want to do something too, after being stuck in the same place for your entire life.”

Tobi blinked at Theo, his eyes wide. “You mean, you've never left your house?”

Taking his feet off of the desk and leaning on his crossed arms, the teenager's shoulders rose and fell dramatically with a groan. “Nope. Never been off the property,” he grumbled. “I'd rather not talk about it.”

“Don't worry about it,” Nrekeeka told him.

“Sorry for being rude,” Theo said, sulking. He sat still for a moment before sitting up straight and shaking his head. He blinked his big violet eyes, his cheerful demeanor returning. “Here I am trying to keep up a somewhat professional persona and failing miserably,” he said.

Tobi put on his most charming grin and walked around the desk to stand beside Theo. “No need to put on an act for us, kid,” he said, ruffling the teenager's hair.

“Hey! Cut it out!” Theo frowned and ducked away from Tobi's hand. He directed a more-cute-than-threatening scowl at the other man as he smoothed out his hair.

“This kid is adorable!” exclaimed Tobi, meeting Nrekeeka's eyes across the desk. “Can we keep him?”

Pouting, Theo crossed his arms. “I'm not a cat.”

“You better stop making that face, kid, or I really will take you home,” Tobi laughed, making Theo blush.

Nrekeeka frowned. “Stop teasing him, Tobi,” she scolded. “Getting back on track Theo, we didn't really get to talk much about the job when we spoke earlier, so I would like to go over a couple things.”

With a quick sideways glare at Tobi, Theo nodded and returned his attention to Nrekeeka. “Of course.”

“If you accept the job, you can have one of the rooms in our building. You'll have full control of the kitchen and the small medical room as well. We won't be able to pay you much, and you'll be sharing the building with Tobi, Adonis, and myself,” explained Nrekeeka.

Theo chuckled. “Pay isn't a problem. I basically just want to do something which isn't here and doesn't involve studying for hours on end.”

Tobi peered through his reflection in the window to check out the garden. “The only studying will be a crash course in guns.”

Theo winced. “Guns?”

“Unfortunately,” Nrekeeka breathed. “Just a safety precaution. I learned too.” She watched as the boy slowly licked his lips, thinking. His expression told her he was about as pleased to use guns as she.

“Well, this sounds like something I'll have to think on. I would be more than happy to let you guys stay here for the night if you'd like. It's a long drive back to the city, and it's getting late,” Theo told them, turning in his chair to look up at Tobi.

Nrekeeka held up her hands, shaking her head. “Oh no, we couldn't intrude.”

“You sure? Because it really isn't a problem.” Theo's big, bright eyes got larger as he raised his eyebrows.

“The drive isn't an issue. Any excuse Tobi has to drive his car, he'll take it,” replied Nrekeeka, smirking at Tobi.

“Well, I suppose I'll see you out then.” Theo's brow twitched as he got up from his desk and walked to the door, opening it for Nrekeeka and Tobi. Leading them back down the hall, he was quiet, his thin shoulders tense. He paused at the huge double doors, turning his charming smile on the pair. “It certainly was a pleasure meeting you both today.”

Tobi mirrored Theo's expression. “You're always welcome to visit us even if you don't want the job,” he said, taking Theo's hand to give it a shake. A blue light, colder than ice, enveloped his hand and arm. He jerked back, shocked. “What in the hell?” he gasped, eyes wide.

“My Panacea Hand. I take it you were injured?”

“Just a few scrapes, nothing serious.”

Theo shrugged. “Sometimes it acts on its own.”

“As long as it works, right?” Nrekeeka said, shaking Theo's hand next.

“I suppose,” the teen replied.

Nrekeeka nodded at Theo as he opened the door. “I look forward to hearing from you,” she said, waving as she followed Tobi to the car.

Hopping into the car and starting it up, Tobi glanced over at Nrekeeka. “He seems like a good kid.”

“You two hit it off nicely.”

Grinning, Tobi pulled onto the open road. “He's gonna be a fun one to tease. Did you see the way his cheeks lit up?”

“I thought you only liked to tease girls,” replied Nrekeeka, shaking her head at her friend.

“Normally, yes. But I've never seen a human male who is so adorable.”

Nrekeeka had to agree. Theo was pretty cute. “I hope he decides to take the job. It would be nice to have at least one good looking guy around,” she teased.

“Ouch. You injure my pride and ego, 'Keeka,” he replied, the corner of his mouth curving.

Nrekeeka shrugged, palms up. “Just stating facts.”

“About eighty percent of my graduating class would disagree with you, Sweetheart. No, eighty percent of the population of Cellier City,” Tobi taunted in return.

“Now, there's some conceit if I ever heard it!” laughed Nrekeeka.

“Just stating facts.”

Nrekeeka shook her head, groaning. “You can be such a pain.”

Tobi winked at her. “But you love me.”

Clicking her tongue, she rolled her eyes at him. “Keep dreaming, Romeo.”

Laughing, Tobi pressed down on the accelerator. The city was a long way off, but he didn't mind spending this time with Nrekeeka. Especially when she was in a good mood. She used to tease him constantly, but lately, she reverted back to the shy girl she was when they first met. He didn't press the issue because he understood the change in behavior, but it was nice to see her true self again.

Observing the woman in his peripheral vision, he saw her yawn. Her skin was ashen, her eyes bloodshot and rimmed with dark circles. Even her ears seemed to droop.

“Nrekeeka, you okay?”

“I'm fine,” she told him, waving him off.

“Why don't you have a nap? We won't get home for a couple hours.”

She shook her head.

“Stop being stubborn. You're exhausted.”

Scowling, Nrekeeka pursed her lips, but another yawn interrupted her tight-lipped stubbornness. This one made her eyes water. “I suppose I am a little sleepy,” she admitted, shuffling over to lie down on the bench seat.

“I'll wake you up when we get home,” Tobi told her, reaching over to gently rub her arm. With a soft, content sigh, Nrekeeka relaxed next to him. With her there, Tobi was going to have a hard time keeping his eyes on the road.

 

***

 

Tobi couldn't bring himself to wake Nrekeeka when they got home. Instead, he chose to lift her out of the car and carry her inside. Adonis was just coming out of the kitchen as Tobi was walking down the hall. Neither man spoke as Tobi walked past Adonis and carefully climbed the short staircase. Nrekeeka didn't stir as he clumsily let himself into her room, readjusting his grip on her so he could hit the control panel with his knee. Putting her down on her bed, he removed her boots and pulled the blanket up over her shoulders. She made a quiet noise in her throat, snuggling into her pillows.

Tobi stood there for a long moment, watching her sleep. His lips curved in a soft smile as he leaned down to kiss her forehead. “Goodnight,” he whispered, petting her hair before leaving her to sleep.

Adonis stepped around the corner at the end of the hall as the door closed behind Tobi. “How did everything go today?” he asked the silver-eyed man.

“Fine. And you?” replied Adonis.

“Good! Really good. Hopefully, we'll hear back from Theo soon. I think he'll be awesome to have around,” Tobi answered, nodding. If anything, having Theo around would give him another guy to talk to since Adonis wasn't exactly the most skilled conversationalist.

Adonis nodded.

Tobi wanted to continue talking to the man but never got the chance. A shrill scream erupted from behind Nrekeeka's door. Adonis' expression didn't change. Tobi wouldn't have said anything even if it had. He let himself back into Nrekeeka's room and went to her bedside. This wasn't the first time he responded to her nightmares, and he was certain it wouldn't be the last.

Nrekeeka was sitting up in her bed, tears running down her cheeks while her entire body trembled. She clutched the sheets tightly, squeezing her eyes shut in an attempt to will away the images lingering in her mind.

“Same one?” Tobi whispered, sitting down beside her. He gathered her up in his arms, holding her quivering form against his chest.

She nodded, burying her face into the crook of his shoulder. Hooking her arms around his neck, she took slow, deep breaths.

“It's okay. Shelsea is being taken care of. Everything is fine.”

She whimpered softly.

“I'm here. I'm not going anywhere.” Tobi told her, leaning back against the pillows and hugging Nrekeeka against his chest. He brushed her hair back from her face, resting his cheek on top of her head. Stroking her back, he could feel her begin to relax.

“Why me?” she asked him. “What did I do?”

“Oh, Sweetheart, you didn't do anything. None of this is your fault. I'd make things better if I could.” Kissing the top of her head, he idly combed his fingers through her soft blonde hair.

Eventually, Nrekeeka's breathing slowed, her grip easing as she drifted back to sleep. Tobi let out a deep breath. He didn't know how many times he would have to tell her she wasn't to blame until she believed his words.

Tobi closed his eyes, groaning under his breath. He loved her so much it hurt.

Nrekeeka shifted against him, her hand slipping down his chest, fingers twisting in the cloth of his tee shirt. Hugging her tightly, he pulled the blanket up, moving as gently as he could.

Tobi didn't know why, but as he lay there staring at the ceiling, there was a pain in his chest.


© Copyright 2019 Kristin Kuffner. All rights reserved.

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