Tomorrow, she’d know what to do. She’d come up with a plan. She’d figure out a way to convince him—
Convince him what? That it doesn’t matter that The Society made him kill innocent people?
Of course it mattered. How could something like that not matter? How could anyone make something like that better?
And even if somebody could, in the abstract, how could Claire?
“I’m going to go to sleep.” She forced herself to turn around and meet his eyes. “Tomorrow, we’ll figure out a plan.”
She nodded and held his gaze. You will let me be strong for you. She tried her hand at psychic persuasion, but couldn’t even manage to convince herself.
She needed to go to bed. But first, she had to say something.
“The Society wanted Proposition 42 passed. Sykes kept delaying the voting, but after they killed him, the bill went down in flames. So it stands to reason that they didn’t kill him to make the bill pass.”
“They killed him because he went against orders.” The certainty in Nix’s voice was chilling and absolute.
“They do that?”
Nix didn’t answer. He didn’t have to.
“Maybe that’s why they wanted you to kill me.”
“To test my loyalty?” Nix spat out the last word.
“I was thinking more along the lines of the fact that I couldn’t take the kinds of orders they gave you.”
It figured that Nix thought this was his fault and she thought it was hers. Claire guessed that maybe that was a Nobody’s lot in life. She barely even noticed the tremor that passed through Nix’s hands until it was too late.
He was upset about having killed people, and she’d just rubbed it in his face that when he’d told her to kill, she’d said no.
Go to bed. You’ll feel better tomorrow. You’ll do better tomorrow.
“I’m going to go to bed.” Claire’s voice was so tiny that she could hardly hear it, but Nix didn’t seem to have any trouble sorting out her words.
He was still apologizing. For sending her away. For making her cry.
“It’s okay,” Claire said, willing him to believe it—and willing herself to believe it, too. “You … there was a lot going on today. You didn’t mean it. Or maybe you did. It’s okay. I’ll be …”
I swear to God, if you say it one more time …
He nodded, but Claire saw the indecision flicker across his face. Like he was thinking about saying something else.
“You can have the couch,” she offered. The look he gave her in return was nothing short of incredulous—with a side of disgust.
“Or I could take the couch,” she amended her previous statement. He nodded.
The last time they’d slept in close proximity to each other had been in the woods. On a bed of grass. Limbs so tangled that she almost couldn’t tell where her body ended and his began.
“Good night, Claire.”
She sighed and tried to manage a smile for him. “Good night, Nix.”
Nix couldn’t sleep. They’d gotten back to the cabin late. It was almost dawn now, and he still couldn’t sleep.
Couldn’t close his eyes without seeing a slideshow of everything he’d ever done. Every life he’d taken. Every syringe he’d emptied. Every hole he’d put in a stranger’s chest.
Eleven. From the psychopath in the bathtub to Sykes, there’d been eleven.
And interspersed with every one of those images was one of Claire. Smiling in her sleep. Laughing. Crying because of things he’d said to her.
I made her cry.
In his mind, that sin bled into all of his others. She slept, and he kept watch. The way he had when he’d thought she was a Null.
Claire is curled into a ball. Claire is shifting onto one side. Claire is breathing out of her mouth.
She was sad. He’d made her sad. And maybe that was easier to think about than the other thing. The thing he’d almost done to her.
The thing he’d done to others.
Nix stood up. He had to move, to get away, but he couldn’t leave Claire. He had to watch her. He had to keep her safe, because she was right. The Society probably hadn’t put her life on the line in some kind of elaborate test of his loyalty. If they’d never sent him after her, he never would have questioned that each name they slipped under his door belonged to someone who deserved to die.
By giving him her name, they’d taken a risk. Why?
Maybe they weren’t lying when they designated Code Omega. Maybe they do think she’s dangerous.
Nix smiled wryly, and the motion hurt him, like his lips were going to slice straight through his face. Claire was dangerous, because she made him want things he wasn’t supposed to want.
Because after fewer than twenty-four hours’ practice, she could fade on cue and take a plethora of objects with her.
Because when the two of them touched in the fade, time literally stopped.
Because she’d never believed him about Nulls. Because even if someone was a Null, even if they were the worst kind of monster, Claire wouldn’t want them dead. She wouldn’t kill them without proof.
She’d ask questions, and she was good at asking the right ones.
Claire was powerful. Claire was smart. She was beautiful, and to The Society, she was a threat.
They only want the ones who don’t ask questions. The ones who will kill and kill and kill and feel good about it.
Nix couldn’t make himself forget the rush. The adrenaline. The pride and the nausea and the fierce, indescribable, godlike feeling of watching life flicker and fade into nothing.
I liked it.
I hated it, and I liked it, and I did it. I did.
Nix saw his targets’ ghosts like they were standing there in front of him. Wyler and Sykes and God knows how many of the others. And then there were the bodies, the ones he’d found when he’d entered some of his marks’ homes. His marks’ victims, still alive and screaming for help from the basement.
And, God, he couldn’t regret killing the people who’d put them there.
If they’d only ever sent me after Nulls, I’d be okay.
But they hadn’t. And he wasn’t. And he couldn’t stop seeing Claire’s face everywhere, even though the real Claire was only a few feet away. Even though he could have reached out and touched her, if he’d wanted to.
I have to do something. I have to.
Since he couldn’t breathe life back into a decomposing body, Nix concentrated on the things that could be fixed.