"You have a visitor, Mr. Sheehan."
Will Sheehan raised an eyebrow. "And who would that be?"
"Blay? Well, I suppose she'll have a bone to pick with me."
"Because you almost killed her?"
"Because I let her live."
Dr. Vivian Blaylock came down the hall and through the door to his cell, a slip of a woman with a ghost-pale face and wide, haunted eyes. She'd always had a slight build and a somewhat stricken look, but this … Will barely recognized the frightened, trembling shell of the woman he'd once known.
"Hello, Vivi," he whispered. The word echoed into the corners of the cell. Calling her by her first name was a rare privilege she'd bestowed on him; she made everyone else call her Blay. Something about her first name was sacrosanct, and he'd never asked what it was. Perhaps that was why she let him use it.
One of many reasons.
Vivian Blaylock was always very careful about the people she let into her life. She had more empathy than the average person, a gift and a curse, and she'd learned the hard way more than once how cruel people can be. Sensitive people have to be more cautious, as one packs fine china in bubble wrap to keep it from breaking. Blay wore the armor of professional distance, taking her meals alone, hovering on the edge of conversations, but helping when help was needed, because it was her calling.
He'd asked her once, why she had gone into the medical field. "I like taking care of people," she'd said with a shrug.
And she'd taken care of him, stayed up with him on nights when he couldn't sleep, patched him up when he was hurt on the job, and listened patiently while he poured his heart out to her about the things that ate him up inside.
And he'd paid her back by selling her and her people out. They were dead or in the clutches of the cartels, all of her old teammates. He'd killed one of them himself, during their last, desperate attempt to save themselves. He'd almost killed Blay.
In his mind's eye, he saw them at the warehouse that day, her tied to a chair surrounded by the dead bodies of the people she'd called her friends, arms riddled with needle marks from the drugs they'd given her to make her talk, with her stringy black hair falling in her face to hide the dried tear tracks. Him, standing in front of her, holding a loaded semi-automatic. Safety off. Finger poised on the trigger.
"Go ahead," she hissed, a desperate, pain-filled look in her haunted blue eyes. "Just go ahead and kill me already!"
Will leveled the gun.
And put it down.
"Take her to the oubliette," he ordered.
"No! No, please! Just shoot me!" she pleaded, beyond desperate. The look on her face still haunted his dreams.
He'd let her live, and paid dearly for it. Her rescue from the oubliette had led to his capture by her organization, an organization that didn't take kindly to people betraying and killing its members. They'd thrown him in this prison-dungeon-to rot, a dark symmetry to what he'd done to Blay.
"Hello," he repeated. "I thought you might come."
Blay hugged herself. "H-hello, Will." Her voice shook, and there was a slight stutter on the H.
"How are you feeling?" he asked. It was a rather lame question. It was strange; he'd had a million imaginary conversations with Blay while he was lying in his cell, and now that she was right in front of him, the words wouldn't come out.
"Terrible," she replied, voice flat and lifeless.
"I'm sorry," he offered. "I'm sorry it had to turn out this way." They were the same words he'd said to Danna and Cross when they'd come to visit. Danna had yelled, and Cross punched him in the face. But he knew Blay, and he knew she wouldn't do that. Primum non nocere.
"I know," Blay whispered. She took a step closer. The security camera in the corner whirred, a warning of what should happen if he laid a hand on her. Frankly, he was surprised they were letting her this close to him, after what he'd done.
"I miss you," he said.
She looked down at her feet. "And I miss the person I thought you were."
He didn't say anything. Her words punched him somewhere deep. Betraying the others, well, it hadn't exactly been easy, but he'd never doubted himself with them. Hadn't even hesitated killing Wainwright. But Blay, sweet, quiet, bookish, compassionate Blay … he'd almost aborted his mission, just so he wouldn't have to hurt her.
The silence grew between them, until Blay let out a strangled cry.
"Why did you do it!" she yelled, her voice weak but full of rage. She ran at him and began hitting him with her spindly hands, but she was small and malnourished, and did little damage. Will barely felt the furious punches that rained down on his chest.
"Why didn't you kill me?" she shouted, pushing him so hard he had to take a step back. "Why did you let me live?"
He considered letting her wear herself out, but it didn't look like that was going to happen anytime soon. Rage is a potent fuel. Easily, he caught her arms and held them while she struggled against him. After a minute, she quieted, then went still.
"I let you live," he whispered, each word slow and perfectly weighted, "because it's a sin to kill a mockingbird."
She laughed, a mirthless, hysterical laugh, and pulled away from him. "You—you mean you actually read that? You actually read a book? I've been bugging you to do that for months and you finally—of all the times to—" She broke off and continued laughing, and Will's stomach felt funny as the sound reached his ears.
This was Vivian Blaylock, or at least, what was left of her.
She stopped laughing after a few minutes, took a deep breath, and fixed her eyes on him. "I loved you," she insisted. "I loved you. I told you things I've never told anyone. I let you call me Vivi. I gave you my soul. And all I want to know is, do you sleep at night?"
"Yes," was his reply. "I sleep. And there's this … clip show that goes on behind my eyes while I do. I see your people making their pathetic last stand in the streets of Old Gotham. I see Wainwright dying. But mostly I see your face."
She fixed him with a glare, anger born of hurt. "I want you to see my face in your nightmares every day for the rest of your goddamn life, Will Sheehan. I want you to hurt like I hurt." There were tears in her eyes. "I've never wanted anyone to hurt before, you know? Not even people I know deserve it. But you, you're different. You killed me most of the way and didn't have the guts to finish the job. I'm nothing now. I can't sleep, can't eat, can't draw a straight line." She held out her hands, which shook dramatically. "I hate you, and I've never hated anyone before either. And I hate you for making me hate, because it's not a nice feeling. Eats up your gut like a virus you can't get rid of."
He listened to her talk, as she had once listened to him when he couldn't sleep at night. Listened to the pain in her voice, the scared, angry, confused woman who had captured his heart with her compassion and childlike awe. Hate. He'd made her hate. He'd broken her, and he'd corrupted her. This is why we can't have nice things, Will, his mother's voice informed him, speaking from the grave.
Her knees were trembling, and what little color was in her face drained from it. Will caught her as her legs gave out under her, surprised by how light she was. Five-six and maybe a hundred pounds, soaking wet in clothes. Such a fragile creature, his mockingbird.
There were footsteps approaching in the hallway upstairs, Danna and the guards coming to take her to the infirmary. He might never see her again.
Blay's eyes were still glassy and unfocused, and, on impulse, he hugged her protectively to his chest. To his surprise, she reciprocated, leaning into him and clutching his shirt with a drowning grip. He cupped the back of her head with his large hand and stroked her hair with his thumb.
They were trying to recapture the old days, the days before he'd shown his true colors and betrayed them. She wasn't hugging him; she was hugging the person she'd thought he was. And maybe, for just a minute, he left behind his hard, soulless self, and became that person again. Just for a moment. Just for her.
Because despite everything, despite his true allegiances and the coldness where most people had a heart, he still felt the same way about her, his mockingbird. He'd still take a bullet for her. He'd still never kill her.
He still loved her.