She woke up a few seconds after he sat down, roused by the vibrations of the bed. Her eyes opened slowly, fluttering as she struggled to wake up all the way, until her eyes settled on him and she realized he’d come home. With a scream of delight, she threw herself up from the mattress into his arms, clinging to him like he was going to vanish from her arms. Like she thought he’d turn into a ghost any second. Like he’d been gone a lifetime and she’d lost hope of his return.
Graeme had never felt more loved in his entire life.
She wept into his shoulder, freely, soaking his shirt with the saltwater. He held her tightly, not speaking, just letting her cry for the both of them. He still felt stunned after what happened; numb and a little cocky, if he was being honest. He didn’t know how to process the events, he didn’t know if he was somehow gaining some superior strength or ability that he hadn’t had before, or if he was hallucinating it, or if it was some freak incident like when mothers could lift cars to save their screaming infants. Without further testing, he could never know, not really.
But he knew he felt incredible, like new life had been injected into his veins. He’d gathered more supplies from the corpses, still reluctant to waste anything that might be useful, only this time he’d gone even further. He’d pulled teeth and cracked into ribs to get to the sternum and the spine, taking pieces of each. Fingernails, teeth, and ornamental trinkets he gathered from the corpses all went into a few large mason jars. The hearts, and a few other organs he thought he’d gather while he was at it – lungs, and tongues, and a few pairs of eyes – all went into the large jars he’d used for the last group of hearts. He was running out of room in his trunk, and beginning to think it might be a big problem if he were ever to be pulled over. For the time being, his new supply was stashed safely away, but he couldn’t leave it for long. He needed to address the storage issue, and he needed to do it soon, before he found any more things to keep.
Still, how was he expected to explain all of this to Gabriel? Would she understand what he meant when he said he seemed to grow stronger with every kill he made? Would she think he had been tainted, that he was dangerous? Certainly the idea that whatever was happening might not necessarily be a force for good had crossed his mind, but he didn’t feel like it was evil. It felt like a blessing, like a secret gift that he’d been given to help him along his path.
It certainly wasn’t like his path was offering him much resistance, like the Architect had said. Graeme wondered if this was because he was stronger than when he’d seen the Architect, or if it meant that things were going to get much, much worse very soon. The theory was more than a little disturbing, seeing how easily things could spiral out of control. It didn’t help that every thought he had was trailed with a thought of her. What if they took her? What if they tried to use her against him? What if something happened to her and he couldn’t protect her?
He would live for well over 2 years, but what about her? Why hadn’t he asked? Had that been so early in their relationship that he hadn’t known what she would be to him? He wished he could go back in time, to ask the right questions. Perhaps that was why things happened when they did, though. Maybe if he had the answers to the questions he had now, he would do something differently and wind up fu*king it all up. He couldn’t imagine being where he was now without her. What if she was the lynchpin in his whole destiny? What if she was everything?
How could he put her in danger? What could he do to keep her safe, to make sure nothing could hurt her?
Slowly, he fell asleep, holding her in his bed, shortly after she’d stopped crying. Something about lying there with her was lulling to him, just her presence and the warmth of her body against his, the far-away vibration of her pulse, the smell of her skin and her shampoo. They were like anesthesia to him.