The surprise that stopped Cap in his tracks of finding Isabel and Daniella in the captains quarters was quickly replaced by his stomach tightening when he saw they stood by packed bags. He bee lined for his whiskey—the one he’d been stashing for tough times—and didn’t say a word until he slammed two cups. It was a waste not to savor the smoky flavor, but he’d do just about anything to take the edge off. He didn’t think she’d actually do it.
“Nope, not yet.” He poured himself a third one, this time he took his time sipping it, letting his eyes wonder over their bags, over them. Daniella had been a pain in his ass since day one, but she’d grown on him. He admired her tenacity, and had a soft spot for whatever Jasper had a soft spot for. The man loved next to nothing, and he’d found solace in her company. He couldn’t even be mad about the pain it would cause Jasper, at least not at them. He’d given everyone a choice.
Mostly, he didn’t care who left, but this…he hadn’t expected this.
The fiery science doctor standing in front of him made his heart beat faster than a good fight. Her presence alone was enough. Accompanied with those bags, though…he was an idiot. He almost begged her to stay, but when Isabel made up her mind, there was no talking her out of it. He hadn’t helped the situation, all but telling her to leave. He waited until he was sure he could speak the right words before clearing his throat.
“You’re leaving, then.” He said finally.
“Maybe,” she said carefully, eyeing the glass in his hand.
“You look ready.” He glanced at Daniella. “I’m assuming you wanted to give me the broadcast file.”
Daniella crossed the room to him and he held out his hand. She kept going, though, to close the door. She lingered at it for a moment for turning toward him. “We want you to listen,” she said, slipping off the necklace. “I added the file to here. It contains everything you asked for, including Leo.”
“Good,” he said slowly. “Listen to what? Because I already told you, I’m goin’ south—”
“I’m going to trust you with something. Something that means my life, because I respect you.”
“You may want to sit down,” Isabel said.
“I’m fine. Closer to my whiskey.” He patted the bottle.
“You have to promise that what I’m about to say won’t leave this room.”
“Not even Jasper,” Isabel said.
“Especially not Jasper.”
“Okay…” Cap looked from Daniella to Isabel.
“Promise,” Daniella insisted.
“What the hell, you two?”
“You have to promise.”
“Fine, I promise. Get on with it.” They were scaring the wits out of him. He racked his brain trying to figure out what she wanted to say, but all the scenarios were coming up worse than it probably was. She needed to speak, and fast.
“Remember you are a man of your word. It’s why I respect you so much. It’s why the crew respects you.”
“Promise you won’t hurt her,” Isabel said quietly, which really alarmed him.
“The hell would I hurt her for?” he turned to Daniella. “Did you break something? Something my boat needs—”
“This isn’t about your bloody boat,” Isabel snapped. “Just promise.”
“Promise.” He downed the rest of his whiskey, and was about to pour himself more, but Isabel grabbed the bottle.
“You are right about releasing the information on Leo,” Daniella said. “But so are we. It will create mass panic. It will create witch hunts. People are going to turn on their neighbors with this information.” Daniella held up the small gold chip. “And sometimes, they’ll probably be right. There are others like Leo out there.”
“You’ve met some?”
Daniella shook her head. “I don’t think so. Just Leo.”
“Then you know this how?”
Isabel took a long drink from his bottle.
Daniella watched Isabel, but then met Cap’s gaze. “Because I’m one of them.”
Cap stared at her while his brain tried to process the information. The problem was, it didn’t. He shook his head. “What game are you two playing at?”
“Not a game. I can prove it. But you promised not to tell anyone. If you want me gone afterward, I’ll go.”
“We’ll go,” Isabel corrected.
Daniella shook her head. “I told you, not anymore.”
“As much as I want…things, where you go, I go.”
Cap followed them to the deserted deck. Both he and Isabel put on their Nebus, and he wanted so badly to do something to take the expression of stress off her face. Most of the crew were in the mess hall, getting drunk on their last night together. “Remember you promised not to hurt her.” Isabel said as Daniella just…stood there.
Cap didn’t understand first, until he realized he was watching her breathe, without her Nebu.
“What the fuck. Put on—”
Isabel put her hand on his arm. “She doesn’t need it.”
It took his brain a few minutes to accept it. To accept that she’d been on his boat the past few years. That someone like Leo lived down the hall from him. Rage filled him, but he wasn’t sure exactly what the rage was for. For being like she was? For hiding it? For hiding it and living on his boat? For allowing Jasper to care for her knowing he’d probably never accept her as she is?
Cap rubbed his face, trying to clear some of the confusion that accompanied the rage. Finally, he looked at them. “Back in the control room, now.”
Daniella watched Cap pour himself another drink of whiskey, and although his words were directed at Isabel, his sharp gaze was pinned on Daniella. “This is why you didn’t want me to release the information about Leo.”
“I’ll leave if you want me to,” Daniella said. She could practically see Isabel holding her breath. Her friend was tight with tension, ready to intervene for whatever Daniella needed. She kept a close eye on Cap, watching for sudden movements. Although she stayed to the side, she stayed between them. Daniella had to trust Cap. He promised he wouldn’t hurt her. He’d kept it so far, even if his tone when ordering them to the control room was filled with anger.
“How long ‘till your brain turns to mush?” Cap asked.
“We don’t know it will,” Isabel said. “I keep an eye on her cognitive abilities. She’s smarter than most your crew.”
“That ain’t sayin’ much,” he muttered.
“But she ain’t human.”
“Says who?” The anger was apparent in Daniella’s voice, no matter how many times she told herself she wouldn’t get angry. Anger wouldn’t help him understand. But she was damn tired of being afraid, and even if it was only Cap, admittance was freeing. “Mutants are human. Rotters are human. Why am I not? Who gets to decide that?”
She cut Isabel off. “I trusted him with this because I respect him. He can feel how he feels, but he doesn’t get to degrade me.”
“You’re like Leo,” Cap said.
She took a deep breath, trying to remember to give him time. “You have a strict moral code, but that can’t be said about a lot of other people who are biologically like you. Isabel didn’t hold you accountable for what a man in your crew did to her. Tried to do to her. I ask you don’t do the same thing to me.”
Cap stayed silent for a minute, then nodded. “You have a point. Tell me more.”
“I don’t know if I can feel other people like me like I do Leo. I haven’t before.”
“Whenever he’s around, I feel him. His…presence. I don’t know how to explain it. I just know he’s there.”
Cap ran his hand over his head and started to pace. “Jesus. Stay away from Jasper.”
Even though she’d known that was probably best, hearing it tightened her throat. “I know. It’ll hurt him.”
“Hurt him? No, Daniella, if he hurts you it’ll destroy him.”
“He won’t care much when he finds out.”
Daniella blinked away the tears his words caused, and settled for nodding, not trusting herself to speak.
“It’ll be after he causes irreparable damage that he’ll care,” Cap continued.
“His stance on mutants is pretty clear,” Isabel said.
“He—” Daniella cleared her throat. “He groups Leo in with them. He’ll group me in with them.”
“I have some faith in him,” Cap said. “I seen the way he looks at you. I ain’t worried whether or not he’ll accept you. I’m worried about his temper.”
“What about you? Do you accept her? Or do you want us to leave?”
Cap gazed at her. “If you stay, you go south.”
Isabel looked at Daniella, who nodded. “We go south.”
Back to The Symbols of my Jottings