It took a while, but eventually Jay and I stirred, parting ways to prepare for what was ahead. Somehow, we had come to the unspoken agreement that it was time to set out for Jessica. Jay came to me again, subtle bulges in his clothing speaking to the number of weapons he carried. He was dressed in tough, dark clothes, yet still managed to look handsome.
I'd dressed in a black tank top and trousers. Underneath, I'd strapped daggers to my legs and my boots also contained knives. Strapped to my back were my ever-present half-swords, covered by black coat that reached to mid-calf level. The Shadow's mask was tucked in my pocket and I'd tied my hair back, away from my face.
"Ready?" Jay hovered in the doorway as I cast about, looking for anything I might have missed.
I nodded distractedly, loathe to leave the place that Jake and I had been so happy.
Jay caught my shoulders, spinning me around to face him.
"Jake wanted you to do this, Asha. You told me that yourself."
I nodded again, not trusting myself to speak. I refused to meet his gaze as I tried to pull out of his grasp. Jay, however, stood firm.
"This is the right thing to do, Asha."
I pushed him then. "I know!"
The words came out in an angry snarl and Jay's eyes widened as he stumbled backwards slightly. I refused to look again, every muscle in my body locked angrily.
"I know this is the right thing to do. I know I owe it to you and Jessica to get her back. I know Jake wanted me to do this." I sighed "I know I can't keep running forever. But that doesn't make this any easier. Telling me what I already know won't make this easier." I looked at him then and saw my own pain-darkened eyes reflected back at me. "You forget, this was my idea."
Jay's mouth quirked up in a crooked smile. "Why all the drama then?" A glitter of mischief twinkled in his crimson eyes.
That succeeded in bringing a small, brief smile to my face. "I hate goodbyes."
Jay cautiously put his hands on my shoulders again. "Then think of it as a 'see you later'."
Shaking my head at him, I followed him out of my apartment. Deep down, I knew it was the last time I would be here. I dropped the keys into one of the many pockets of my coat and with a last, wistful look at the door, left with Jay.
We left the familiar streets on foot and in silence, both of us wrapped in our own thoughts. Some distance outside the town, I realised where we were.
I hadn't realised I'd stopped until Jay paused, calling my name over his shoulder. A small crease in his brow indicated his concern.
I forced myself to continue over the rolling meadows. I almost succeeded in convincing Jay I was okay, until we came to a large area of grass that was still charred and burned. New growth was only just beginning to show. When I saw the bloodstain that time had failed to remove, I fell to my knees.
"Jake." I whispered. "I'm so sorry.."