Archer sighs, and rests his head against the wall of the cave, looking out into the rain. I stare at him, and for what must be the millionth time, I wonder why he always wears his head dress. Finally, I ask him.
"Because it's part of my uniform." Is his answer.
"What uniform? You don't work for Donovan anymore, right?" I ask, crossing my arms.
Archer sighs again, "There are other reasons, but they're.." He thinks for a moment, "complicated."
"Complicated? How complicated? How hard is it for you just to tell me?"
Without giving an answer, Archer gazes out into the rain.
"Archer, please." I say.
Behind his sunglasses, Archer's eyes study me for a long while. "Why do you wish to know so much?"
"I want to see the face of the man who has rescued me more times than I can count, and, well, I like you, a lot." I can't believe the words that have just left my mouth, and by the way Archer straightens, neither can he.
Then, to my very great surprise, Archer reaches up and starts to undo his head dress. It falls to the ground with his shades as I stare.
Archer's face is tan, like his hands, and his eyes are a deep amber color. He runs a hand through thick black hair, and my fingers are suddenly itching to run through it, too. But all that's not what I'm looking at, it's the scars that hold my attention. 4 of them, deep and thick. Two on the left side of his face, running from cheekbone to chin, and then two more on the right, on either side of his eye.
I realize Archer's waiting for me to say something, but all I do is reach out and brush my hand against the scars on his left cheek. "How did this happen?" I ask.
"They were a punishment. From my father." Archer says.
"Your father? Why?!" I cry, shocked that a parent would do such a thing.
"My childhood was difficult, my mother died when I was an infant, and my father was a heavy drinker. He thought I was the one who was responsible for my mother's death, and he took a knife to my face. My twin sister, Megan, meant nothing to my father, it was always me that he beat on." Archer's eyes have a faraway look to them. I feel my heart go out to him, no wonder he was always so cold.
"When I was 13, he-he.." Archer stops, but I gently prompt him to continue. "He killed Megan, and I killed him." He says in a voice barely above a whisper. "He killed her right in front of me, choking her while I stood there. Then, I just lost it, I took out my pocket knife, and I stabbed him, over, and over, and over, until he was dead. Then, I ran away." He's shaking now, angry tears burn in his eyes. I move closer and wrap an arm around his shoulders, trying to comfort him.
"I've killed more men in my time working as an assassin than I'll ever be able to remember, but I will never forget that day. I can still see Megan's blank face looking up at me." Archer closes his eyes, and his shoulders shake with silent sobs. I've only known Archer for a month, but he's never once been so open. Was it just me that he trusted enough to talk freely with? Or has he simply been holding all his emotions back, no ready to face them?
A few minutes later, Archer takes several deep breaths, calming himself. He looks at me "Thank you." He says softly. Then, he pulls me close to him, and we sit there, not moving, not talking, just sitting.
When Archer releases me, he asks me to help him over to our sleeping bag. The lantern casts a dim glow on everything. Archer grimaces as he lays down, and I unbutton the lower half of his shirt and check on his side. The bleeding's stopped, but it needs proper medical help. When I've redressed the wound, I curl up against Archer's good side, and he lets me use his chest at a pillow. I can't help but think about how similar all this is to a book I once read. It was called Hunger Games, it's funny, I'm in a cave with a guy who's injured, just like the main character was, and I think I'm falling for him, too, just like her. Strange.
I wake up to the sound of thunder. The storm is still raging, I sit up, wiping sleep from my eyes. Archer's eyes flicker open as well. He looks out into the storm, and says "Looks as if we won't be leaving anytime soon." I nod, and lay back down, Archer wraps an arm around me, and I listen to the steady beating of his heart. We're quite for a while, then I ask, "Archer, why did you save us from Donovan all those times?"
He thinks for a moment, "I guess I saw something in your group, when Storm died, you all acted as if he was really family. You were all crying, and I wanted to help you. It's hard to explain."
I smile, "It's ok, I've got the idea. Thank you for it. You saved us."
"You saved me last week, you could have left but you helped me."
"I couldn't just let you die, could I?"
Archer gives a short laugh and smiles. I sit up, and help him to, as well. We eat a small meal of dried fruit, before resting side by side at the mouth of the cave, our backs to the rock wall. The storm showed no signs of letting up, and I know we'll be here for a while.
I don't know how many hours pass in silence, and then I discover Archer has dozed off. I lay my head on his shoulder, and pretty soon, I'm joining him in sleep.
My dreams are blurry and confusing, I'm grateful to wake up. But I notice the temperature in the cave has dropped to where I'm shivering.
"Brr." I say to myself, rubbing my arms for warmth. Archer shifts, and mumbles something in his sleep. I grab our sleeping bag, and drape it over Archer like a blanket, then I crawl into it with him.
I'm just about to fall asleep, when suddenly Archer sits upright with a cry. It's followed by another cry as he clutches his side. He falls back, breathing heavily. "What's wrong?' I ask, placing a hand on his shoulder. He flinches, and I pull away.
"Sorry," Archer says. "Nightmare."
"It's ok, they're just dreams." I say, brushing a lock of hair back from his face. One of Archer's hands catch mine and our fingers entwine. Then, before I know what I'm doing, I'm pressing my lips against his. I've never kissed anyone before, but Archer wordlessly teaches me how to. His free hand holds the back of my neck, and mine is on the side of his face.
I'm the one who pulls away, reluctantly , though. Archer runs his hand through my hair. "Never kissed a guy before?" He asks with a smirk. I shake my head. "Pretty girl like you?" I shake my head again. "I think you're lying."
"I'm not." I say, Archer fakes surprise, but then, he goes in for another kiss. Where the first one was slow and careful, this one was passionate and, I don't really know the words one would use to describe kissing, but I'll use free. I could finally communicate all my feelings to Archer, without having to speak. We've only kissed twice now, but I already love the feel of his lips against mine.
When we pull apart, again, I lay my head on Archer's shoulder, and together we continue to watch the storm.