Aaron moved through this his workout fluently as Grace sat watching him. As the sun climbed slowly into the sky and started to burn off the fog surrounding the city Aaron finished his last exercise and dropped into a sitting position, crossing his legs and looking at Grace watching him. She smiled back.
He reached up and ran his hand through his hair. It came back soaked with sweat. He hadn’t remembered how hard some the exercises he’d used to do had been. He’d fallen out of shape and it was apparent in his form and his muscles. But to someone else it wouldn’t have looked that way. In his workout he’d gone far beyond what most humans were capable of and had pushed himself even farther, knowing the limits of his body.
“You’re full of surprises,” said Grace smiling and shaking her head.
“That he is. But he’s going to need to do better if he’s going to master himself.”
Both Grace and Aaron looked up to see Van standing over him. The man tossed a paper-wrapped package at him. Aaron could feel what it was before he caught it in his hands. It was the pistol.
He held it in his lap, gazing down at it, his expression having turned stony, his face becoming a hard mask.
“Open it and let’s get started,” said Van leaning against the mast, his arms crossed, his expression blank as he watch Aaron.
“What is that?” asked Grace leaning in to see examine the package. She clung to the blanket surrounding her.
Aaron could tell she was feeling something coming from the pistol. It had an affect on everyone that came into contact with it. He could feel the curse seething in the back of his mind. Having been distracted by his workout and Grace, he hadn’t realized just how strong it had become.
A dark air of anticipation radiated from it. It had been waiting for this moment.
Aaron slowly unwrapped the paper from around it, answering Grace’s question, “It’s my curse and burden. The reason that Barret wants my head.”
She gazed at it silently. He could see her trying to draw herself into the blanket, to shrink as far away from the weapon as possible.
He looked from her to the weapon again. The presence roiled in the back of his mind.
“You’re going to do what you tired to before, during out fight,” said Van, his voice having taken on the commanding tone of a teacher speaking to his student.
“Make a connection…” muttered Aaron. He remembered what had happened last time he’d dropped his mental defenses. He’d blacked out and seen that vision. Of what, he was still unsure.
His gaze flicked up to Grace sitting across from him.
The whisper surprised him and his gaze hardened. That’s not going to happen. He thought back. Never.
He could feel the blood-lust of the curse calling out to him.
“Not with her here,” he said darkly to Van.
The swordsman shook his head. “She needs to stay right where she is.”
Aaron shook his head looking up at Van, his gaze hard. “No. I will not put her in danger.”
“You already have,” replied Van strictly.
Grace looked worriedly between the two of them, her gaze falling on Aaron. “What is he talking about, what’s going to happen?”
Aaron shook his head and sighed, clenching his teeth. “I never wanted you to see this side of me. This is the burden I carry from my past.”
Her fingers touched his cheek, surprising him from his focus on the weapon. She’d reached out, but the blanket was still clutched around her. Somehow she’d worked up the courage to come closer to the dark presence emanating from the pistol. “Let me share some of that burden,” she said slowly, looking him in the eye. “If it will help bring you back…”
Aaron sighed again. “Alright.” He directed his words to Van. “If I try to do anything…”
“I will stop you,” finished Van quietly.
Grace let her hand fall away as she clasped the blanket around her tighter. Aaron let out a deep sigh and closed his eyes. He could feel the presence sending out tendrils, pushing against his defenses, eager to take control.
A little bit at a time I guess, thought Aaron. Taking a deep breath, he started to let down the first layer of his mental defenses.
He felt the curse rush in, pushing as hard as it could against his consciousness. Slowly, he let down another layer. His eyes flew open and his pupils dilated. He felt his muscles tense up and his control over his body start to waiver. His hand twitched, wanting to move for the pistol resting in his lap.
No. He mentally willed himself to keep from moving. Focusing on keeping control over his body, he started to let down more of his mental defenses. The curse rushed in as fast as it could and then suddenly he felt all control falling away as he lost his focus on keeping himself from moving.
Through his eyes, he could see the pistol had suddenly appeared in his hand. Grace had risen from her spot on the deck. He could feel his muscles flexing as his own body followed suit, the paper wrapping falling away from his lap, blown about by the wind.
The pistol came up, his arm outstretched. He watched with horror as his finger found the trigger. Damnit! No! he cried out to no avail as his finger tightened on the trigger.