It was early morning when Aaron started back into his old training regimen. He barely remembered most of it but his muscles hadn’t forgotten the years of painful routines that had been drilled into him. They had not been fun years but what he had been taught in his training to become a Protector had saved his life on many occasions.
Stripping off his shirt and boots he stood just at the bow of the ship, and started to move through the motions, stretching his tired and injured muscles before he really started into his workout.
The incessant itching that had been plaguing him had stopped sometime in the night and had faded away into a soreness of his muscles around where he’d been injured. He remembered the itching from major injuries in the past. He knew it was caused by his accelerated rate of recovery, but he’d never thought much more into it than that.
Finishing his stretching he started with is first exercise. His body moved on it’s own, his muscles going through the motions as it he’d just done the exercise yesterday.
The sun was rising just behind the ship, working it’s way through the clouds and the fog that blanketed the sky. The rays of bright orange lit the towers of the flying city through the mists.
Aaron stared out at the city, his thoughts on where Barret was currently. The man could be like a ghost when he wanted to be. Aaron knew he would never be able catch up to Barret before the man found him first.
His musings were interrupted by the sound of footsteps on the decking. Closing his eyes he focused his mind on the sound, trying to discern who it was. Van was silent when he moved, so the only other person it could be was Grace.
“You shouldn’t be up,” she said when she saw him.
He heard the worry in her voice and stopped, turning and settling into a sitting position, crossing his legs. He looked up at her. “I’m alright, you don’t need to worry.”
Her hands were clasped up just below her neck, clutching the blanket draped around her shoulders. “How can I not? After what happened to you.” Her gaze lingered on him.
Aaron followed her gaze, touched the bandages binding his chest and torso. He’d forgotten about them. Finding where they were secured he started to unravel them.
Grace shook her head and knelt in front of him, reaching out with one hand to try and stop him.
As the bandages fell away revealing scars from past injuries, she frowned at him. Her hand tried to find his, but he stopped her, taking her hand in his own and touching her fingers to his bare chest.
She stopped blinking and probed around with her fingers.
Arching his back he craned his neck to check his shoulder. The wound where the bullet had entered into his chest was closed, as small scar replacing where it had been. He turned back to her, looking her in the eye.
“All better, see?”
She shook her head, her fingers going for one of the bandages on his face covering one of the many cuts he’d sustained. She peeled it away, surprise and disbelief evident on her face. “How?”
Aaron shrugged. “It was something they did to me in my training… in my past life.”
Grace met his gaze. “You never did finish explaining.”
Aaron’s gave a small nod and sighed.
“Who was that man?”
“Barret—Barret Bray. He was a rival of mine in my last line of work. We were both in line for the same position, but he wasn’t able to handle the stresses it put on him so they removed him and shifted the responsibility to me instead. He never forgave me for that and has been out for my head ever since.”
Aaron looked down at his hands, turning them palm up in his lap.
“I nearly killed him at one point. I should have too, but… Mai stopped me at the time.”
“Mai, your ex?”
Aaron snorted a laugh. That’s right, she knows Mai from the bar. “Not quite. She was a colleague in my old job. She did—does, the same work I used to. She came looking for me to bring me back.”
Grace watched his face silently.
Aaron shook his head closing his eyes. He could hear the call of the pistol down in the cupboard where he hid his stash. “I’m never going back though,” he said finally. “I left that life behind and I’m not going to let it consume me again. Not ever.”
“What are you going to do now?” He felt Grace’s hand on his cheek and he lifted his gaze to look at her. “You’re not alone.”
Aaron placed his hand over hers. “I know that now. And I know that I have to get stronger. There was a time when I was able to best Barret, I need to become that strong again.”
Aaron searched Grace’s eyes. He could see a faint glimmer of fear in her eyes. Whether it was for him or her own safety he didn’t know. He shook his head, taking her hand from his cheek and clasping it in his own. “I’m not going to let anything happen to you or anyone else.”
“Don’t worry about me, worry about yourself,” she said. “I’ll be here for you. I may not be able to fight, but I’m not leaving you by yourself anymore. You’re getting into more trouble than ever known you to get in.”
He chuckled, a small smile coming to his face. Releasing her hand he got his feet under him, then turned and bent over, placing his hands on the deck of the ship. Flipping his feet up in one motion he held his balance, and then slowly took one hand off the deck, tucking it behind his back.
Looking at Grace, he saw she had a small smile on her face as she watched him. His focus wavered momentarily at seeing the smile he’d fallen in love with and so did his balance. His feet wavered in the air as he caught his balance, focusing on what he was doing, he slowly lowered himself, bending his arm and then pushing back up against the deck of the ship with a grunt.
He was going to get stronger to matter what it took as long as Grace was in danger, as long as his new life was in danger. First thing was first though, he needed to learn how to control the curse. If he didn’t, it would all be for nothing.