He knew… he knew what I was and kept it from me.
Why though? It didn’t make any sense.
But… did it really matter? Even if my father did know, it didn’t really change anything about my situation. It just added more questions that I would most likely never get answers to. After all, it wasn’t as though I could confront him about it. If he sensed even the tiniest bit of rebellion from me, I was sure that he would sooner lock me up than lose me.
Right… Kieran. He was still waiting for me to reply… only I wasn’t sure what to do.
I was in yet another dilemma of choosing two sides. Both of which had high prices with uncertain outcomes.
To tell him the truth, the real truth, meant inviting him in to see that side of my life. A side where he would most likely learn the dark actions of my father, our business, and the work entailed within that.
This, in itself, was a dangerous thing to divulge to anyone, the information thereby placing a target on Kieran.
…But I had to acknowledge something else too. By bringing Kieran in and telling him all of this… he would then be inches away from discovering the truth about me too.
About all of my dark contributions up until now. Things that now made me feel emotions I never expected to feel.
Because a part of me suddenly felt… shame. Guilty. Afraid of what he would think if he learned of everything I’d done in the past. Of who I was during the day. Never before had I cared about another’s judgment like this. My life had always been too busy to worry about something like that for a long.
But… Kieran was different. For the first time ever, I was beginning to care what someone thought of me. He had been nothing but helpful, doing his best to solve the issues that had plagued me for years now.
I’d attacked, accused, threatened and pushed him away… and yet he didn’t seem to care about any of that. I could see goodness in him that no one else had ever shown me.
Something pure that was given without asking for anything in return. He was either psychotic… or he did genuinely want to help me. Anyone else would have walked away already
…And it was for that reason which ultimately made the decision for me. One was keeping him away would still be for the best.
“…A doctor,” I half-lied. It was a technical truth, though not quite right. “I don’t know much about him.”
But apparently, I had grossly underestimated just how much Kieran had already picked up about my life.
“…Was it your father?” he asked, catching me off guard.
My head immediately spun sharply to look at him, finding his expression serious.
“…Why would you say that?” I replied. I was trying to make my tone sound casual despite the tension I felt.
“I saw how afraid you were of him that night we met,” he said. “If he has hurt you, you can tell me.”
By that response? No, no I could not. He’d now just given me further confirmation that I was doing the right thing. Kieran involving himself was only going to end with him putting himself in danger as well.
“I’m fine,” I lied, “He just… does what he thinks is best for me.”
“Raven, I mean it,” he persisted. “You don’t need to put up with being mistreated. In fact, I don’t think you should go back home at all.”.
“With the suppressors and silver, I think you should come back to Ashwood with me,” he said.
“Be seen by a doctor that actually knows how to correctly assess you. Make sure there are no long-term effects due to what he’s done to you. You can live the kind of life you want there without ever having to feel afraid.”
Leave… my father?
He was offering me the very thing I’d been too scared to dream for. Escaping from it all, leaving my father behind… finally being free.
And not just that, but to also be allowed into the world I was always meant to be raised into. Have unrestricted access to answers still unknown. About who I was, what was wrong with me, about how I could get better.
…Only, as I kept thinking it through, I soon came back to reality. Because it was just that… a dream. A fantasy.
The minute I stepped foot out of this town, he would track me down and immediately drag me back home. There was no such thing as being free.
Besides… even if I couldn’t see it myself, I was sure there had to be a reason why he gave me the silver and suppressors. There had to be. Everything he’d done had always had a purpose.
…Perhaps I was just missing something.
“I’m sorry… I can’t do that,” I said quietly.
“Raven, I can’t just send you back there, helpless to stop whatever is happening,” he argued, clearly unhappy with my response.
“You don’t want to tell me the truth, sure, but your face says it all. The bruises on your ribs say it all. I know something is going on with him. I can feel the manipulation a mile away.”
That prickled me, instantly making me become a little defensive.
There was nothing I could do and my hands were tied. It wasn’t as if this was easy for me or something I wanted. My place was by my father’s side. The only place I could ever be.
The best thing for everyone was if Kieran just accepted that and let it go already.
…Which, of course, he didn’t.
“You don’t think I haven’t thought about this? The man has a daughter who he keeps hidden away, rarely allowing them the opportunity to meet anyone outside,” he said.
“That sounds exactly like isolation, ensuring that you’re reliant on him, and only him.”
“Stop,” I quickly warned, not liking where this was going “And then add in the fact that, despite being a rich man’s daughter, you have fighting skills sharper than most skilled warriors I’ve met.
Skills far beyond any average learning. I can’t think of many reasons why you would need such a thing in a city like this, especially with the upbringing you should have had.”
“…I said stop.”
“It doesn’t take a genius to realize he’s using and abusing you, Raven,” he continued, ignoring my words.
“Whether he handed you the pills or not, I already came to this conclusion days ago. If you just come with me, I can protect-.”
“— Kieran, stop!” I finally yelled, tears threatening to fall from my eyes.
Listening to all of this was too much. Both painful… and terrifying.
Because if he had already figured out this much about me, then he was dangerously close to things he shouldn’t know. To pry any further would make it near impossible for me to keep him safe.
“…Please stop. Please,” I begged.
“You don’t know what you’re saying.” He finally took a moment to look at me properly, pausing just long enough to see my demeanor.
“…I’m sorry, Raven… I didn’t mean to upset you,” he said softly.
But I just shook my head, still trying to bite back the tears. He was making this so hard. So goddamn hard. Everything inside was now screaming at me to give in and tell him everything. To run away with him and pretend I could be someone new. But I couldn’t. It was too late for that.
I went to say something else, to protest some more, but, as he continued to look at me with a face full of concern, eyes that held only sincerity… I felt myself crack.
…I cracked just the tiniest bit under that pressure… and provided a confirmation I never expected to give. One that didn’t actually admit to anything yet told him everything he needed to know.
“…If my life is truly as bad as you say it is…,” I said, unable to hide the pain in my tone.
“One full of sadness and abuse, and where I was helpless to the whims of an extremely powerful man in this city… why do you think I would stay?”
No matter what he said to me, at the end of the day, I was still my father’s raven. Just because my cage bars weren’t always visible, it didn’t mean I couldn’t always feel them everywhere I went. The last thing I wanted to do was to trap Kieran inside here along with me.
“You think you’ve figured everything out, but you don’t know me, Kieran,” I continued, quickly regaining whatever composure I could muster.
“And you don’t understand half of what you’re saying.”
“Raven, I’m trying to tell you that he can’t touch you so long as you come with me,” he said.“ …I can protect you. I promise.”.
But if I were to accept his help, it wouldn’t be me who needed protection. Already, I could visualize the manilla folder now… reading his name at the top… knowing what it would mean….
I shuddered at the thought.
“I appreciate everything you’ve done for me,” I said, already feeling my chest aching with the words I was about to speak.
“But… I’m not interested in leaving. I’m sorry.”
Before he could say anything further to make the decision harder, I quickly stood up and walked to the bedroom to get changed. Focused on anything other than what was happening so I didn’t accidentally crack again.
“I’ll stay around for a few more days in case you change your mind,” I heard him say, speaking from the other side of the door.
“Unlike him, I’m not going to force you into coming with me. I want this to be your choice. Your decision. Something you clearly have never been given before.”
Why was he making this so goddamn hard? I was already trembling so much, feeling my heart pulsing loudly in my chest. I didn’t need this to drag out any more than it was.
But as he mentioned his return back home, it did make me realize something.
That… this was most likely the last time I would ever see him. Not only because of the town difficulties he’d mentioned earlier, but it was also unlikely that I would be able to sneak out like this again. Doing so once had already been too risky.
And as for future mutual events, we might find each other at…? Well, I doubted my father would allow me to attend anything like the Mayor’s party again after what happened last time
No, this… this right here, this very moment… this was goodbye.
…And as I thought on it more, coming to terms with what that meant, I suddenly felt an odd sense of clarity. …Because whatever happened right now, it wouldn’t matter after today.
It was a thought that made me immediately walk to the door, opening it up to reveal Kieran on the other side. He had one arm up against the doorframe, his body leaned forwards in a way that implied his head had been resting on the wood only moments before.
And, as I came face-to-face with him again, he instantly looked sharply up as if he were about to say something else. An expression that told me he hadn’t given up on trying to convince me yet.
But that didn’t matter to me anymore, my mind now already made up. Before he could get a single word out, I quickly moved forward and pressed myself against him, catching him by surprise.
And, instinctively, I gave myself over to that relentless urge I always felt whenever he was nearby arched my body upwards, weaving a hand through his hair, and right as a shiver of pleasure coursed through me… I brought my lips up to meet his.
…And it was perfect. The exact way I always imagined it would feel. Maybe even better. And though I could tell he was reluctant at first, possibly questioning my sudden change in attitude, it didn’t take long before his mouth started to respond back. Moving against mine, drinking in every single sensation on offer… turning those sparks into flames.
When his hand moved to my waist and pressed me closer to him, an excitement of possibilities instantly bubbled into my mind. I could tell that he wanted me just as much as I wanted him. That, whatever this absurd obsession was, it was definitely felt mutually.
Was he feeling himself burning in the heat of those flames too? Intoxicated by my scent like I was his? I couldn’t help but wonder what might happen if I truly did let go completely at that very moment… if I forgot everything else and gave myself over entirely.
…But this wasn’t that sort of k!ss.
No, this one was only meant for goodbye. And, though it pained me to do so, I slowly pulled myself away enough to meet his eyes.
“I really do appreciate everything you’ve done for me,” I said, taking a final moment to hold onto him, procrastinating what I needed to do.
“You’ve given me knowledge that I might have gone the rest of my life without ever discovering, going about my days as I continued to think that I really was dangerous… that I was a freak. Now I can at least try to get better, even if that’s not in the way you want.”
“…I thought that k!ss was because you were agreeing to stay with me,” he said quietly, disappointment heavy in his tone.
They were words that hurt me more than I thought they would, making me ache to take back everything I’d said and agree to go with him. But this wasn’t about me.
This was about loyalty to my father… and about protecting Kieran.
“…I really am sorry, Kieran.” …And I stepped backward out of his arms, now moving towards the exit.
I grabbed my bag from the counter and immediately headed towards the front door, but it was as my hand was on the handle that I heard him speak behind me.
“Wait,” he said, making me pause.
“There is something you should know. Something that might make you reconsider.”
And, reluctantly, I turned my head back to look at him, already struggling as it were with just leaving in light of what had happened between us.
“What is it..?” I asked.
But his expression only grew more intense, whatever he wanted to say clearly being something he was unsure about. As if he was undecided whether he should tell me.
“Kieran… what is it?” I pressed. He finally took a deep breath and moved a step towards me.
“I don’t know how to tell you this,” he said hesitantly.
“…But he’s not your real father, Raven.”
“What…? What do you mean?”
“I mean… there is no biological way that Eric Reid could have fathered you.”