"Zelos doesn't know you, doesn't fear you and has no interest in your actions. If you strike now we will lose everything."
The stranger's words made him hesitate. His resolve wavered as he turned the corner away from Lilly. Pausing in the shadows between two street lights, he looked around, back in the direction he had just come.
"I'll make Zelos care," he muttered. This wasn't anything to do with politics; gang rivalries had nothing to do with him. He was just a gym owner, one of the few people left in this city that had bothered to make a decent living out of something legal. This was personal, not politics. "I'll make him bloody care," Jamie spat and kept walking, before more of the stranger's words worked their way into the confused mess inside his head.
"I want you to kill Zelos. I want you to kill him and take his place." Insanity. The beggar guy was insane and Jamie was amazed he had even heard him out. How would he ever be able to take Zelos' place? Zelos was the most bloodthirsty ex-bloodbox champion, and his version of politics was far too similar to the ruthless survivor's attitude that had to be maintained in the box. Kill those who threaten you, those who oppose you and make sure you stay alive.
But how had Jamie ever been a threat?
And how was he supposed to replace a guy like that?
He shook his head and rubbed his temples, massaging away a growing headache. Everything was getting too much and suddenly his survival instincts were kicking in. Was he really going to go rushing into Zelos' place and try to kill him with his bare hands? Because that had been the plan. He had very little left to lose - a house whose spirit of homeliness had died with Sam, a half burnt gym, and a woman in a mental care home that no longer recognised him as her son.
The doubts grew and grew, nagging at him until he found himself walking back towards the gym, slowly, uncertainly and tiredly. As Lilly came back into view, he sighed. Blood that had escaped her was glistening on the street surface beneath her, mixing with the rain and running quickly away from her down the slight incline towards where he was stood. He felt numb, watching the little rivulets of blood race towards him.
Vaguely in the back of his mind, he realised he should help her. But she looked so dead already. What were a few bandages going to do to help her?
His feet took him hesitantly forward.
"I thought you left," she murmured weakly, a groan quietly rumbling through her lips from the effort it took to look up at him. He knelt beside her wordlessly, ignoring the blood staining his trousers. Without much thought to what he was doing, he took his shirt off and began ripping it into strips that formed crude bandages. The cool rain battered his skin lightly, but he ignored that, too, focusing on making bandages out of his shirt.
Lilly closed her eyes, stammering something that Jamie barely heard: "You... shouldn't have picked me." Jamie didn't really know what she meant and didn't know what to say to it, so he remained silent, beginning to wrap the bits of his shirt around her wounds. Once again, in the back of his mind, some part of his brain seemed to be working properly - she meant he should have gone to Zelos. But what the stranger had told him was true. Zelos wasn't afraid of him. He meant nothing to Zelos.
"No," he muttered after a while, "Zelos isn't afraid of me yet." He was going to make him afraid.
"Promise me something," Lilly said quietly, wincing as he touched her injuries.
"What?" he asked, an eyebrow arching slightly with absent-minded curiosity.
"That you won't do anything stupid," she muttered as he rolled her onto her back gently to reach her other side easier. He couldn't promise her that, but she was barely conscious. He didn't think she would remember this conversation in a few hours anyway. So he nodded and muttered an "okay", simply getting on with wrapping her up in the strips of white shirt. After a while, Lilly spoke again: "So what you plan to do after I'm bandaged up?" He shrugged. It was a good question, really, and he didn't have a clue. "Right well I guess you can leave me at the side of the road then."
"Don't be stupid," Jamie muttered. He realised it sounded hypocritical now - he had been all too prepared to leave her in the middle of the road just a few moments earlier. But he rejected the idea now. He wasn't Zelos, he wasn't that heartless.
"Well, you won't want to take me home." She was right about that one, and Jamie just nodded, tying off the last strip of his shirt. He had run out of material, and he was only half done. He slid his arms underneath her, the tarmac scraping the skin off his arms making him wince, and picked her up. She hated hospitals, but she was too weak to fight back at him about it. She would just have to deal with it.
"No, that would be why I'm taking you to the hospital," he grunted as he stood, beginning to walk. Her weight usually wouldn't be a challenge, but he had hardly eaten in the last few days, and it was beginning to take its toll on his health. She began to struggle against him, telling him to put her down, to let go of her, but her voice was faint and her resistance was weak.
"You're not in any shape to argue, Lilly, just shut up and deal with it." he snapped,continuing to walk towards the hospital.