Binding Moonlight

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

Chapter 9 (v.1) - Chapter 9

Submitted: January 09, 2019

Reads: 17

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Submitted: January 09, 2019

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Max lifted Ekie's head into her lap and glared up at Robyn. “What did you do?” she asked, unable to hide the panic in her voice. When she heard the gunshot, she rushed outside just as Ekie hit the ground and the white-haired guy escaped.

“What I had to do,” Robyn answered, turning to go back inside.

With a shaky breath, Max pressed her hand to Ekie's shoulder. She didn't know what to do. She could try to fix him up herself, but she couldn't even carry him inside. She could call an ambulance, but Robyn would kill her if she did. He was bleeding so badly, Max was sure he would die if she didn't get him some sort of help. It was difficult to tell exactly where the wound was past the blood bubbling up and soaking into his clothes.

“You gotta get up, Ekie. I can't get you inside by myself,” she begged him, patting his cheek. His face contorted with a scowl and he swallowed hard.

“What the hell?” he growled, the scowl twisting into a grimace as he opened his eyes.

“Robyn shot you by accident. You're bleeding pretty badly. We should get you to a hospital so they can stitch you up,” she told him, combing his hair out of his eyes with one hand.

He shook his head, trying to sit up. “You do it,” he told her as she helped him to his feet.

“What? But I don't know how!” she protested, staggering inside.

“Clean it and stitch it.”

“I don't know how!” Max repeated. “It'll be messy and will scar for sure.” Helping him into the infirmary, she lowered him into a chair.

“I don't care.” Ekie sagged against the back of the chair, leaning his head against the wall. Every time he took a breath, more blood dribbled from the hole.

Frowning, Max put on a pair of gloves and cut Ekie's shirt open. She cleaned up the wound as best she could with saline and got to work stitching both sides of the wound. The holes weren't large, but her hands were shaking, and it took a long time to sew the wounds. By the time she was done, her hands were slick with blood and she had some smeared on her face as well. Her stitches were sloppy, but they appeared solid enough.

“I never want to do this again,” she told him, her voice as shaky as her hands. “You should be at the hospital. For all I know, you could get an infection because of me!”

Ekie shook his head and watched as Max cleaned up and washed her hands. She taped gauze bandages to each wound after swabbing away the blood.

“I'm serious, Ekie. I don't ever want to have to do this again, understand?” she said, tears brimming her eyes as she glared darkly. “You have to be careful. You'll be out of commission until it heals.”

Ekie gave her a grim nod. He pushed himself to his feet, crossing the room to stand before Max. When she met his eyes, he smiled and squeezed her arm.

“Go to bed,” she grumbled. “I'm going to talk to Robyn.” She didn't wait around for him to say anything else. She walked slowly to Robyn's office, waiting for her face to cool down before confronting the man.

“Come in,” he answered when she knocked on the door. As she entered, his eyes roamed over her. “You have blood on your face.”

Max clenched her teeth, suppressing a shiver. “Because I was forced to stitch up a gunshot wound!”

Turning back to his computer, Robyn shrugged one shoulder. “It was a small caliber.”

“That's not the point! You shot Ekie! What the hell is wrong with you?” Max shouted at him, her hands balled into tight fists at her sides.

Robyn took off his glasses, pinching the bridge of his nose. “If you two did your jobs properly, he wouldn't have been in a situation to get shot.”

“Are you seriously telling me this is Ekie's fault?” Max's voice constricted in her throat, the last word coming out as a squeak.

“I'm saying you are not living up to my standards. Security is still atrocious,” he told her, tapping a few keys on his keyboard.

“I could have helped. You were the one who told me to stay inside.”

“I'm going to hire someone else to pick up your slack.”

“What? But—”

“There will be no arguments, Max! It isn't your concern who I hire, and if you feel like keeping your job you will get out of my sight. In fact, I don't want to see your face tomorrow, either,” he snarled at her.

Max grit her teeth to avoid starting a shouting match with Robyn. With a small nod, she let herself out. Once she was back in the hallway, a frustrated scream escaped her throat as she kicked the wall. She and Ekie were not incompetent. If not for them, Robyn would probably be in jail. She was starting to think it may be a good place for him.

Max stomped back to her room and started stuffing a few things into an overnight bag. If Robyn didn't want to see her tomorrow, she would make sure she was long gone. It wasn't as though she didn't have a place to stay if she needed. She hated having to leave Ekie by himself, though. He most definitely would not stay in his room and rest, and she was afraid of what might happen if he encountered Robyn.

Allowing her worry to get the better of her, Max went across the hall to Ekie's room.

When Ekie opened the door, Max had to force herself not to stare. He had just come from the shower and hadn't had a chance to dry off yet. His shoulder length hair clung to his face and neck, water dripping off the ends. This was the first time she had seen him in a tee shirt, and it was snug and damp, hanging perfectly off of his muscled frame.

Max licked her suddenly dry lips, struggling to remember why she was here. “Uh...”

Ekie raised an eyebrow at her overnight bag.

“Right. I just came to tell you I'll be at my brother's all day tomorrow. Robyn is pissed right now, so it's probably best if you avoid him as much as you can, okay? Please try and take it easy,” she told him when she found her voice.

He nodded.

Max met his eyes, seeing the exhaustion on his face. She reached out, squeezing his good arm. “Make sure you get some sleep. I'll see you later,” she said with a smile before walking away.

 

***

 

It was almost six a.m. when Max arrived at the tall brown apartment building on the corner of 569th Street and Danton Avenue. Pulling her key from her pocket, she let herself into the lobby. The space always reminded her of a hotel, but it seemed even more so now since the owner renovated. Black tiles covered the floor and stone columns touched the ceiling. Mailboxes lined one wall, though they were seldom used, and a wide staircase next to two elevators led up to the next floor. It was an older building, so it only had seven floors including the basement and ground floor. Even compared to some of the newer high-rises, this was still one of the nicest places to live in the city.

Climbing the stairs to the second floor, Max found apartment 207. Lifting her hand, she knocked on the old wooden door. She waited for a few minutes and when no one answered, she knocked again.

Eventually, a tall, shaggy-headed brunet answered the door. He was scowling darkly until he saw who disturbed his sleep. “Max!”

Suddenly drained, Max collapsed against her brother, hugging him tightly. “Haru,” she mumbled against his shirt.

“Here, come inside,” he told her, taking her bag and guiding her into the apartment. He kicked the door closed behind him and walked with her down the short hall to the living room. “Why don't you sit down while I make some coffee,” he said, indicating his broken down but still comfortable couch.

Max nodded, taking a seat. She kicked her shoes off and crossed her legs, tucking herself into the corner of the old couch. She sat silently, waiting for her brother to return. It was only a few minutes before he came back, carrying a steaming mug in each hand. Sitting down beside her, Haruto handed her a cup as he made himself comfortable.

“I'm really sorry for showing up so early,” she said, rubbing the heel of her hand over her eyes.

Haruto shook his head. “It's fine, Max. I'm more worried about why you came without calling. You never do that. Is everything okay?”

Max exhaled a shaky breath through her nose and frowned. “Ekie was shot tonight, and it was Robyn's fault. He's mostly okay, but I had to stitch him up. We had a trespasser, and I guess Ekie was chasing him, but Robyn still pulled the trigger. The worst part is he doesn't even care. It doesn't seem to bother him that he shot another human being.

“You know, when Robyn first approached me, I really liked him. He was so charming. Lately though, he's just getting scary. He told me I'm not doing my job, so it was my fault Ekie got shot.” Scoffing, she took a sip from her mug.

Haruto shook his head at her again. “I told you right off the bat I didn't like him. You shouldn't even be working, Max. You should be going to school like a normal teenager. It isn't safe working for him.” A dark scowl creased his brow, but it was worry in his eyes, not anger.

Leaning forward, Max set her mug down on the table. “I'm starting to see your point. But you know as well as I do I wouldn't go to school anyway. It was the whole reason I took a job in the first place. I was tired of school. I was a hundred times smarter than anyone there, and I was bored.”

“I know, but what are you going to do later? I mean, you won't be working for Stamos forever.”

Shrugging one shoulder, Max twisted her mouth to the side. “I'll think of something when the time comes. Don't worry about it.”

“How can I not worry? You're my little sister. My only family.”

“What about Aunt Carrin and Uncle Den?” Max asked with a smirk.

Grinning, Haruto snorted. “One's in an institution and the other is, like, a hundred and twelve.”

“Still family,” Max pointed out, raising her eyebrows.

“Barely.” Haruto took a long swallow from his coffee mug and put it down on the table beside Max's. “We've gotten off-topic. How are you doing, Max? And tell me the truth for once, okay?”

“I'm okay, Haru,” she said, refusing to meet his eyes.

“Max, I said tell me the truth. I'm supposed to be taking care of you, remember?” He leaned forward, trying to see her face.

“Seriously, Haru. Other than this thing with Ekie, I'm okay! I'm worried about him, but he's a tough guy. I'm pretty happy at work for the most part. What other fifteen-year-old do you know who can say they are happy with their lives? I'm doing something important.”

Haruto narrowed his eyes at her. “Important, how? I thought you were just maintaining servers or something.”

Max grabbed a handful of her hair and started twisting it. “My work is important.”

Groaning, Haruto scratched his head. “Max, what have you gotten yourself into?”

Scowling, she gave her brother a sideways glance. “I'm getting revenge for mom and dad.”

“Excuse me?”

Dropping her hands into her lap, Max let out an exasperated grunt. It was always the reply he got when she was annoyed with him, and she knew how much it irritated him.

“Robyn's dad was killed in the war, too. I'm just helping him punish those responsible,” she muttered, still refusing eye contact.

Every muscle in Haruto's body tensed. “Max, how exactly are you punishing them? Does this have anything to do with why he hasn't released the cure yet?”

“...Sort of.”

Grabbing her shoulder, Haruto forced Max to look at him. “Max, what's going on? Tell me.”

“I can't,” she replied, her voice barely above a whisper.

“Why the hell not? If you're in danger, I have the right to know what's going on, Max!” Haruto shouted at her, squeezing her arm a little too hard. He let her go when she winced, clenching his hands into tight fists.

“I'm not in danger, Haru! I can't tell you because when Robyn hired me, he made me sign papers to keep me from talking. I'm doing this because I want to, so mind your own business, please.” Crossing her arms, she glared at her brother and let out a sharp sigh.

Haruto inhaled and exhaled a few deliberate breaths to calm himself. Pinching the bridge of his nose, he relaxed against the couch. “Max, it hurts me to say this, but mom and dad would be disappointed in you right now. You don't remember anything about them.”

Max's brow quivered, and her eyes glossed over.

“I know you were young, too young to remember them like I do, but it's no excuse. I've told you stories about them, but maybe you don't recall. During the war, they were Peacekeepers, Max. They detested violence. Mom and dad were on Deldin to negotiate a peace treaty. The building they were in was bombed by humans. And it was an accident,” Haruto explained. “An accident which even made the Deldinites, who are hunters by nature, stop fighting humans. Many of the ones who got out alive even mourned our parents.”

Max scowled at her hands. “But—?”

“But nothing! I can't believe you've been harboring a grudge against an entire race when it wasn't even their fault. Besides, it was ten years ago. I've managed to move on, and you should too.” Getting up, Haruto shook his head. “I'm going back to bed for a few hours. You should get some sleep as well.”

Max stretched out on the couch after her brother left her alone. She didn't blame him for being angry. Everything she believed was completely wrong. It wouldn't be easy to accept what Haruto told her, but he would never lie to her. But she didn't think Robyn would be planning something so malicious without a good reason. Though maybe Robyn was wrong. He shot Ekie without remorse, after all.

Closing her eyes against a budding headache, Max clenched her teeth. This should be an easy choice. Take her brother's side, or Robyn's? It should be obvious. Why was it so hard?

 

***

 

When Haruto wobbled, half asleep, out of his bedroom at noon Max was sitting on the couch where he had left her this morning. She had changed her clothes and seemed a little better than she had earlier.

“Romance novels? Really, Haruto?” Max teased her brother as she closed the book she was reading. She put it back on the coffee table as she held her brother's gaze.

Frowning, Haruto's cheeks turned pink. “They're a good distraction from reality,” he grumbled. “But I don't think it should be any concern of yours what I read. I was going to apologize, but now you're making fun of me.”

“Apologize? For what?” Max questioned with wide eyes.

“I was a giant dick this morning. I could have been a bit more understanding, a little more tactful I guess. Everything I said was true though. Just think before you do anything, okay?” Haruto flopped down next to her. “How are you feeling?”

Max shrugged. “Okay, I guess. Confused. I don't know what to do. I can't just quit,” she said, glancing up at Haruto.

“Sure you can. Unless there is a valid reason keeping you there.”

Max's cheeks colored.

A grin spread over Haruto's face. “I forgot about the boy you're always talking about. You like him, don't you?”

Max gaped like a fish, opening and closing her mouth. Shaking her head violently, she continued to blush. “What? No! We're just friends. I think my friendship is all he's got.”

“And you're all I've got, Max. As your big brother and guardian, I'm telling you staying there isn't smart. But I know how stubborn you are, and I know you won't listen to me. Just please, for the love of God be careful.”

Twisting in her seat, Max wrapped her arms around Haruto's neck. “I will.”

“Good,” he said, returning the hug. “And how is everything else? Do you need money?”

“Haruto, you know I make more than you. I should be asking you, especially since you don't appear to be going to work today?”

“Uh, yeah...” Haruto ran his hands through his hair and sucked on his bottom lip. “You aren't the only one who's been having a tough week.”

“What happened?”

Haruto snickered at the protectiveness in her voice. “It's not a big deal. I was fired, and Mai left me, but I'm okay. Don't look so horrified, Max.” He grinned, patting the top of her head. “I've got odd jobs, so I'm not gonna get kicked out, and I'm not gonna starve.”

“What did you do? You and Mai have been together for years!”

Haruto's cheeks flushed. “That is, uh, a story for another time.”

“If you're going to be like that, you're paying for lunch,” Max said, narrowing her eyes at him.

“Did you want to invite your friend so I can meet him?” teased Haruto.

Max punched him in the arm.

 

***

 

Ekie leaned against the wall outside, waiting patiently for Max to return home.

“Hey, Ekie.” Her brow creased with curiosity and worry as she approached him.

Standing up straight, he wiggled his fingers at her before sliding his hands into his pockets. His brow was creased and his jaw clenched. He didn't look pleased to see her, so she stopped a few paces away.

“What? What's wrong?” she asked, tilting her head.

Holding his injured shoulder stiffly, he turned away and went inside. Max followed him, a knot of panic forming in her gut. Maybe it was because of the pain, but he was behaving how he had when they first met. She followed along behind him, keeping her eyes on her feet. She peeked up from under her eyebrows when they stopped at the door to Robyn's office. Ekie reached up, knocking. The door opened, and they went inside. A strange man was sitting in Robyn's chair while Robyn perched on the corner of his desk.

“Where the hell have you been?” Robyn demanded, his eyes locking on Max when she came into the office. None of the concern in his voice reached his face.

“At my brother's. You told me you didn't want to see my face today,” Max retorted.

The man in the chair snorted and Robyn's eyes grew large. “I did? Why would I say such a thing? I like your face.”

Max squeezed the handle of her bag. “Is he the man from the security footage? What is he doing here?” she asked, moving the focus away from herself.

Robyn's face lit up with a grin. “Indeed it is, Max! I did a little digging and it turns out he's a very talented teleporter. After an extensive interview, I concluded he was never a threat to us. I do believe he will come in quite handy, however.”

“Yo.” The man wiggled his fingers. “Hey Robyn, ain't ya gonna give me a proper introduction?”

“Of course! Max Ernest and Ekie Maxwell, this is Gabe Dunstan. I assume you prefer Gabe, yes?” Robyn asked the man, glancing back over his shoulder.

“Yup. Due ta a birth certificate mishap, my full name is actually Gabrielle, so I just go by Gabe. Either way, it's a pleasure ta meetcha,” Gabe greeted cheerfully, getting to his feet. He winked at Max before turning to Ekie. “So yer the man I hear about all the time. Ekie, was it? Robyn tells me you've got some skills in the fighting department. I'd hate ta see the other dudes if you've got this many scars.” Gabe crossed his arms and leaned forward to examine Ekie's face.

A muscle in Ekie's jaw twitched as he clenched his teeth to the brink of cracking. The longer Gabe stared, the more color Ekie's face took on.

“Don't talk much, do ya?” Gabe said as his eyes roamed over Ekie's face.

Max stood beside Ekie, wide-eyed and mouth hanging open in shock. Apparently, Robyn chose not to inform this guy about Ekie's quirks. Ekie couldn't handle people staring or asking about his scars. Normally he was good at hiding his anger, but not this time.

“Seriously, dude. Do ya ever talk? Is he a mute or something?”

Gabe was flat on his ass, blood streaming from his nose before Max could even blink. Ekie's hand rested at his side in a tight, white-knuckled fist. From the floor, Gabe gaped at Ekie with enormous green eyes. Blood dripped between his fingers and off his chin, soaking into his shirt.

“What the hell?” he shrieked.

Ekie wanted to throw another punch, but Max put her hand on his arm. Casting a brief glance in her direction, he left the office. Max shot Robyn a dark glare and chased after Ekie.

Robyn chuckled, handing Gabe a handkerchief.

“What the hell?” he repeated, holding the cloth to his nose.

“Ekie doesn't appreciate people talking about his appearance. You're lucky he only gave you a bloody nose. He could have broken your entire face,” Robyn informed him, moving behind his desk and sitting down.

“Dude has anger issues,” muttered Gabe. He dabbed at the remaining blood leaking from his nostril and touched it gingerly. It wasn't broken, but it certainly hurt.

“He has his reasons, just like the rest of us,” said Robyn.

“I'm pretty sure it's bad manners ta punch someone in the face within minutes of meetin' 'em.”

Robyn grinned. “Probably, but it wouldn't be the first time he's done it.”

 

***

 

“Ekie! Ekie, wait!” Max called down the hallway as she chased after him. He managed to get a surprising lead on her.

Ekie finally stopped and turned around. He was still pissed off, but his color returned to normal. As he waited for her to catch up, he tried crossing his arms, but winced and let them fall to his sides.

“Are you okay? You're acting weird,” Max said, catching up with him. Stopping before him, she grazed her fingers over his bicep.

Ekie gave her a stiff nod and kept walking.

Falling into step beside him, Max studied his profile. “Are you sure? You don't seem okay. Is it your shoulder?”

Shaking his head, Ekie came to a stop at his bedroom door. He stood there for a moment before sagging against the wall. With a heavy sigh, he closed his eyes.

Max mirrored the sigh and reached up, cupping his cheeks in her small hands. Ekie opened his eyes, the gentle smile on her face catching him off-guard. “Don't worry about what he said. He doesn't matter.”

An unfamiliar tightness settled in his chest as his hands began to quake. Max was too sweet. She was the only person who, right from the moment she met him, saw past his scars and his scowl. She always smiled so brightly at him, and now it had become a sort of craving which he needed to indulge.

Surprising Max, he leaned forward and wrapped his arms around her. His body was acting on its own as he stooped over to embrace her much shorter frame. He pressed his forehead into the crook of her shoulder as her arms encircled his back.

“It's okay, Ekie. I'm not going anywhere,” Max promised.

“Thank you.”


© Copyright 2019 Kristin Kuffner. All rights reserved.

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