Emmanuel swallowed, his gaze drifting down to his feet, head bowing slightly. This was not a move Selah missed; not only was she scrutinizing him carefully, she was also very aware- and often annoyed by- how intensely he usually tried to meet her gaze. Was this a sign of discomfort, shame- or lying?1400

He exhaled, and when his eyes finally came to meet hers, they clashed with her icy sheen.2401

"I mean it when I tell you that I didn't mean to keep this from you, Selah. At least not for long. It's just that everything kept happening-"3402

"Get to the point," Selah cut him off stonily. "Who are you really and why do you know who I am? What are you really doing here with me?"4403

But Emmanuel would not be so easily shaken off what it was he wanted to say. Still looking at her with an odd, almost apologetic look, he continued as though she had said nothing.5404

"It's just that I was… I was afraid, Selah. I didn't want to let you know what I am… what I've done. I wanted to help you, I honestly did- and I was afraid that if I told you, that you wouldn't let me, wouldn't trust me." He paused for a few moments, then added in a lower tone, "I still am."6405

"Get to the point," Selah hissed, her lips thinning in frustration, and she could feel her shoulders tensing up almost painfully, sending little flares of pain down her scraped-up back and sides. Impatiently she pulled her now much worse for the wear halter down over her stomach and more securely across her breasts, keeping her eyes sharply on Emmanuel as she did.7406

"I don't want to hear you exposition- just get on with it, NOW."8407

"They're not lies, Selah," Emmanuel said quietly. "I have never lied to you. I just haven't told you everything that I know."9408

"And what is that but a lie of omission?" she snapped back. "Don't give me teenage bullshit logic."10409

"I'm sorry," Emmanuel repeated. "You're right, that's an excuse. There is no excuse for what I did- now or then."11410

He exhaled again, and when he spoke to Selah, his words were quiet, calm, but strained.12411

"Selah… I was the person who killed your mother. I was twenty years old, and she was the last person I killed. She was the one who caused me to stop."13412

Selah stared at him, and it felt as though a wave of cold realization was slowly pouring inside her, chilling her. Her mouth opened, eyes widening involuntarily as her pulse increased, and she momentarily forgot to breathe.14413

This man… this man had murdered her mother. The man who had changed her life, gave her the final push to start her creation of the person she was today- the man who had changed her world irrevocably- he was standing before her now.15414

An image flashed into her mind then, a memory… a visual of herself as a young child, cowering shaking under her bed as she listened to the sound of her mother dying. Her… this had been her, he had put her there, he had been there- 16415

He had done it. Him…17416

"Go away," she almost whispered, and her voice shook. Almost as furious with herself because of this, her lack of control, she raised her voice, its tone becoming aggressive.18417

"Get away, Emmanuel, or whoever the hell you are! Get the hell away from me! Go away, get the fuck away! I'll fucking kill you for what you did to me!"19418

The more she went on, the more worked up Selah became. He had killed her mother… this was the man who had killed her mother!20419

Without planning it or even really meaning to do so, carried up in the pure instinct and emotion her profession often relied on, Selah found herself starting toward Emmanuel violently, preparing to strike out at him, even weaponless. He was only a few feet away from her; he should have been completely caught off guard, should have been easy for her to throw off balance, easy for her to injure, if not kill.21420

But he wasn't. Somehow he had anticipated her movements- somehow he had seen something about her that had tipped him off to her no-so-organized approach. Selah barely knew herself that she was attempting to attack him, let alone how she would go about it, before he had already stopped her. Grabbing her by her upper arms, he turned her around, pushing her up against the wall- hard enough that she was momentarily shocked out of her intentions, but not hard enough to really injure her. Emmanuel stood very close to her, pressing her against the wall with the pressure of his strong body and arms as Selah began to struggle against him, trying to step on his feet, knee him in the crotch, get her arms free to hit or claw at him.22421

"Let me go, get your fucking hands off me!" she bellowed, her heart thudding wildly. Not from fear, but from fury.23422

"You fucking murdering bastard, let go! Get off! Get off, I'll make you wish you never-"24423

"Selah, shut up!" Emmanuel hissed, and his expression then was the angriest, the most… violent… that Selah had ever seen it. His teeth were bared, jaw clinched, eyes showing sparks of an emotion that finally sparked a flashing of fear in her chest. Selah would have betted then that she was finally seeing the face Emmanuel showed when he killed… as he was no doubt about to.25424

But she could see him adjusting it, trying hard to realign his expression into one more acceptably patient, even as she fought to hurt him, escape him. How long would he keep up this stupid game?26425

"Selah, someone will hear you- what if you bring them right to you, one of your contacts? What if you fall through the floor again- or bring us both through?"27426

Those half-shouted words were what finally drew Selah's struggling to a halt. She didn't give a shit if her noisemaking drew other potential assassins to them; they couldn't be any different from Emmanuel in their agenda, after all. But the whole falling through the floor thing- he was right about that. Maybe if she just stayed still, she could find a way to just push HIM through- or maybe she could figure out how to get away. Maybe he wouldn't risk following her, since he'd seen how bad the floors were. Maybe- but whatever the case, fighting him was clearly getting her nowhere.28427

Selah deliberately made herself go still, made herself hold rigidly beneath his body. She could hear her own rapid breathing, and her hair hung wildly in her face. Why she had not tied it back tonight, she did not understand, and she cursed it.29428

"Fine," she said tightly, scathingly. "I'll stop. But you let go of me right now and back off, or I will find a way to send you through the floor, regardless of whether I take myself down with you."30429

Emmanuel regarded her appraisingly and must have believed her, for he released her slowly, retreating a good six feet from her while still hugging the wall. Selah fixed stony eyes on him, trying to send out every ounce of malice she could convey to him.31430

"Tell me everything I need to know. Now."32431

"I will," Emmanuel said humbly. "I always meant to. But please- listen to me. Listen to me- and try to believe."33432

"I'm fucking listening," Selah snapped. "So SPEAK."34433

"I didn't know, when I- when I killed your mother- who you were. I didn't' know who any of you were. It was nothing personal- nothing premediated. I was 20 years old, the same age you are now. I was in the mood to kill and I happened to choose your home, your family. It was random, completely out of whim- nothing personal. I only knew that I wanted to kill… and your home and mother were there," Emmanuel said quietly, his voice splintering slightly towards the end. An odd near grimace came over his face.35434

Selah looked at him without pity, without understanding- only a sneering contempt and disbelief.36435

"Oh, and that's supposed to reassure me, you didn't know who we were then? That's supposed to make me feel better, that there was nothing personal about it, that no one sent you, you just decided all on your own that you'd like to kill my mother?"37436

Emmanuel didn't turn from her mocking gaze; he kept his eyes firmly on hers as he replied.38437

"Yes… it is. Because that's different from the way it is when you do it. Or do you think it's preferable to kill for money? Are you telling me you do not enjoy it, or never have, Selah? I don't believe you."39438

Selah nearly flinched; his words had stuck something in her that she had not known existed, some part of her that knew them to be truth. When it came down to it, she knew deep down that what Emmanuel had done to her mother was no different from what she had done to people as an assassin. She too had killed women, some of them who undoubtably had children. Death was death no matter how you played it- the only difference, if she really admitted it to herself, between her kills and Emmanuel's was that hers had made her a profit.40439

She knew this… but somehow she didn't feel that it was true. Somehow it felt to her that Emmanuel's deeds were despicable and treacherous, while her own, if not exactly upstanding, were understandable.41440

Because I was related to one of the women he killed. Because Miguela Topher was my mother.42441

But all the people you killed had family too… all of them were bound to feel the way you feel now.43442

She had never cared, never even thought about it. How could she have never thought about it when it had happened to her? Had being her father's daughter so numbed her to murder that it didn't impact her if it didn't directly concern her life? Or was that just something she had always told herself, always made herself believe, until she truly thought that these were her original views?44443

Selah didn't know, would never have cared to know… until today. She stood there, torn, unable to reply to Emmanuel's leveling or even discern what she thought.45444

Seeming to realize this, Emmanuel's tone softened as he continued.46445

"I picked the apartment- your family's- because it looked so easy to break into. You were on the first floor, and the window was low, the latch so flimsy it was easy to break it and slip inside. I saw your mother in the hall then, her back to me, and I acted on instinct. She had not yet seen me, but I knew she would… so I grabbed her from behind. I spun her around… and I killed her, Selah," Emmanuel said quietly, his voice uncomfortable, shamed. He lowered his eyes, seemed to have to struggle to make himself bring them back up to meet hers.47446

"She… I saw the look in her eyes as she was dying… the wild fear and panic, the pain. But there was- something else, something that stunned me. She- your mother- she didn't look angry, or as if she hated me. At the time, I thought that she looked like she understood me. Like she knew why I was doing this to her- and she pitied me for it. Maybe she did, living with your father. But whatever the case, it really shook me. This- what I did to your mother, and the way she looked at me- changed my life."48447

He paused. "Selah, it was your mother that made me stop killing. As I watched her die, all these emotions came together inside me, feelings I thought I had never had. And I was so sorry, so afraid of myself and what I'd done- what I'd become. A monster- a merciless killer who got off on others' suffering. I saw what I was, and I hated it- hated me."49448

"I left her then, stumbled out into your living room to leave. And that was when I saw a picture of you, and your toys scattered about, and it hit me even harder what I had done. I felt more pain then when I had in any injury. All these thoughts and regrets were coming upon me at once, and I hated myself so much I think had I stumbled upon some way I could sacrifice myself instead of your mother, I would have."50449

He exhaled again, running a hand through his hair. "But I didn't. All I could do for the next few hours was wonder about aimlessly, thinking about you and your father, wondering who you were and how you would cope. At that time, none of my other victims occupied my thoughts- just your family. I was on the edge of a breakdown- but also a breakthrough. And eventually I realized that I would have no peace until I found out who you were, so I could try in some way to atone for what I had done to you."51450

"But then you moved, and I had only found out what you had pretended to be, and not who you were. I lost you for nearly a year before I found you again, realized you were living under more pseudonyms. This happened again, and again, until I finally realized what and who you were. It has been incredibly hard to track you down each time, Selah. It was harder still to learn your true name and profession… and I can't say that I'm proud of some ways I did so. But I needed to. I was desperate. All these years, the face of your mother, and that of yours as a child, have never left me. They drive me on, still. At first, I'm not sure what it was I thought I'd do when I found you… but now I think I know," he concluded seriously. "Atonement. I wasn't lying, when I said I've tried for fifteen years now to help people, save people, when I can, to try and balance what I did. But I don't think I can ever be truly balanced until I save you, cause you to seek your own atonement. And Selah… that's all I want from you."52451

Selah had been listening to him in a tangle of confused thought, her emotions shifting from wariness to belief, anger to fear, understanding to hatred, contempt to a strange longing and pity. He did seem sincere…53452

Why did anything Emmanuel said matter? He'd killed her mother!453

"And I'm supposed to believe this?" she said bitterly. 454

Emmanuel nodded. "Yes… that's what I'm asking of you, yes."455

"What, after you tell me you killed my mother- that you've been lying to me all this time, all that shit about being able to know who I am by looking at me when you've been following me for years?" Selah sputtered, for this was the part aside from his killing of her mother that bothered her most. How could she have not noticed someone basically stalking her for fifteen years with all her abilities and supposed alertness, all her training?456

"You try to kill me- you tell me flat out you're willing to do so- and I'm supposed to just disregard that and focus on the more supposedly understandable part of your tale?" Selah spat, shaking her head. 457

"I haven't tried to kill you, Selah," Emmanuel said to her irritation. "And I don't want to. I have never tried to harm you, even fifteen years ago. In fact, I have saved your life at least three times tonight."458

Selah did think about it. This was true… he had saved her twice from Talis/Lucian. And now here, in this pathetic, ramshackled building. What was his purpose for doing that?459

"It doesn't matter," she shot back. "I'm sure you had your own reasons for doing that, even if just to assuage your damn guilt. I don't give a shit. You can save my life over and over and it still won't overshadow what you did."460

"No," Emmanuel agreed. "No, Selah, it won't. It can't, and I don't expect it to. But maybe some day it can even things out a bit."461

His voice lowered, and she stiffened, knowing he was about to hit her hard with something once again.462

"Don't you want that too? Don't you wish that you could make up somehow for all you've done- even just a little? Don't you ever wish you could start to inch the scale back just a little bit, just slightly make the till more even?"463

Selah paused, and there was an odd, disquieting sensation at the base of her stomach. The truth was, that sometimes she did. Sometimes she just wanted to stop, to be able to be someone else. Anyone. Sometimes her job seemed amazing to her, exhilarating, and totally worth the isolation and danger, the paranoia and running. But sometimes she wondered if she felt that way because it was, or because she had been trained to believe it was. Sometimes she felt completely numb and apathetic to it. And sometimes, she hated it. Hated what she did, hated who she was. 464

No, you don't, Selah- of course you don't. You're letting Emmanuel get to you, letting him make you think weird. You know that isn't true.465

But it was… even as she told herself it wasn't, Selah knew it was. Never before had she admitted to herself that she sometimes hated her job, hated her father and all associated with it for offering her seemingly no choice. But somehow, even so, she had always known… some part of her had been aware.466

"Don't you do that," she snapped, anger and bravado coloring her voice as she lifted her chin defiantly. " Don't you turn your guilt onto me. This is not about me."467

"But it is, Selah," Emmanuel persisted gently. "You are hardly different than I was then, and I think you know this, whether or not you wish to admit it."468

Selah kept silent, her lips pressing tightly together. She didn't trust herself to reply. She wanted so badly to attack him, to hit him, hurt him, forcibly bring him to silence… but she couldn't. Somehow she couldn't.469

"You can change," Emmanuel said softly. "You can disappear, as you have before. You can become someone else… someone you want to be. Someone free of all orders, answerable only to herself and her heart."470

"You mean a fugitive," Selah said icily. "You mean someone like you."471

But even as she said it something stirred inside her… an emotion that felt oddly foreign to her, and yet reminiscent, as if it were something she had once felt long ago, and forgotten. She could not put her finger on what it was, and so she tried to ignore it, tried to squash it back down where it belonged.472

"Don't you want that?" Emmanuel repeated. His eyes probed hers in that searching way Selah still had not grown accustomed to. "Don't you want to feel free and clean? Don't you want to find peace in yourself, as a person of your own making?" 473

Of course she did… who wouldn't when he worded it like that? But there was no point in wanting what she could never have, what was impossible. That was something Emmanuel could never give her, whether he believed he could or not.474

"I don't know what I want," Selah said shortly, " and I'm beginning to think that you don't either."475

Still this didn't seem to deter Emmanuel, didn't seem to throw him off stride. It was almost like he had a script going in his head, a ready answer for every one of her sarcasms.476

"Well I know what you want. And you don't want this. This life, this job, this person that you are. You don't want any of that- and you don't have to have it. You don't have to be it."477

Selah was holding herself so rigidly her body was beginning to shake… she could feel her anger at his words swirling inside her, the pressure building up further. He kept saying that to her over and over, that he knew what she wanted, what she felt… he was full of shit! He didn't know, he couldn't! Who was he to march in on her life and say that? Who was he to tell her she could change? He did not know what she had been through, what she thought. 478

"Go away!" she snapped, nearly shouting. "Just get away from me! I'm sick of you and your lies, your "understanding"! I'm sick of you telling me to do things I can't, of worrying about you and every person who crosses my path, whether or not you'll hurt me or kill me or turn me in, whether you have a weapon or want to rape me! I'm sick of running and hiding and not being able to trust anyone because of you and all those like you! I'm sick of everything, I just want it all to fucking STOP!"479

Her voice was close to a shriek by the end, and she was almost panting, chest heaving with her quickened heartbeat and rise of emotions. To her increased fury and horror, she felt a heat behind her eyes, warning her of approaching tears, and she gritted her teeth furiously, willing them back. SHIT!480

"I want it all to stop," she heard herself repeat, and her voice was hoarse, much weaker than before. "I just want it to stop."481

Throughout her outburst, Emmanuel had just stood there, watching her with a softness in his eyes, a kind of sorrow… and empathy. As though somehow she had been wrong… somehow he truly did understand…482

Now he looked at her gently, in a manner that made Selah somehow feel worse, so much she dropped her eyes. Dammit…483

"Selah," he said, and his tone matched his eyes. "It won't stop if you won't."484

Selah closed her eyes, trying to block him out… trying to forget that his words had somehow struck something in her. She began to swear to herself, attempting to drown out the thoughts that told her Emmanuel was right. Somehow he knew he was right… for some reason she could not explain to herself, she was beginning to believe him.485

"I can't believe this," she said shakily, then stopped, shocked that she had said it out loud. "I just said that out loud didn't I? Oh shit, what the hell is wrong with me? Why did I say that? Why am I still talking? Why am I even considering that you might… shit, I am so fucked up," she said huskily, her voice dropping so low she barely understand herself. And yet Emmanuel seemed still able to hear.486

"This is so screwed up," she muttered, still closing her eyes, still pushing back rising emotion, rising tears. She was daring to close her eyes in front of him… and when was the last moment she'd really felt physically threatened by him? When had her intent to attack him gone away? 487

She really must believe him.488

"This is so screwed," she repeated, and her words were shriller, almost desperate.489

"Yes it is," Emmanuel agreed, and his words were still gentle, still patient as he watched her, waiting. Waiting- for what? Her to prove him right?490

Was she going to? Did she want to? No, of course not- but what else could she do?491

"I can't believe I'm doing this," she muttered again, "I can't believe I'm thinking this, considering this, let alone SAYING it-"492

"So don't think," Emmanuel told her. "Don't believe. Just do it- and then you can make sense of it later."493

He was regarding her so caringly, the expression on his face almost that of a father regarding a struggling daughter. In a way that Selah's own father had never looked at her. 494

All her training, all her instincts rose up in her, screaming protests, screaming for her to stop and think. She could trust no one, no one but herself. She could always look out for herself best…495

But this wasn't true. She hadn't always looked out for herself, couldn't save herself.496

No, Selah, no…497

But she was speaking; the fear and hesitation nearly choking her, but she was speaking.498

"H-how… how did you do it? How… tell me. Help me… tell me what to do."499

Emmanuel looked at her for a long moment as a slow smile spread across his face. Something about it made him almost appear to glow, radiate light…500

"I will, Selah. That's all I want to do. All I need to do."501

He reached a hand to her, and Selah looked at it for a long moment, heart thudding. When she finally took it, the fluttering in her stomach increased, and she suddenly realized what it was she was feeling, identified the emotion she had been unable to name.502

Hope.