“I’m sorry,” came a voice that echoed all around him.
Everything was completely black. He could hear someone sobbing in no particular location, as if it were happening everywhere, yet nowhere.
“I’m sorry,” he heard again. “I shouldn’t have done that. You deserve better.”
Jimmy began to feel something again but was unable to pinpoint where. It was like his entire body was being crushed from the inside out and he was trapped with no way out.
Like a light turning on, he felt all the pressure around his neck release. His mind screamed for him to suck for air. His body made guttural squeals as it drew in whatever oxygen it could. His senses began coming back to him as more air was drawn in. All of them, including pain. He began wishing he had stayed where the darkness had wept.
He opened his eyes only to feel them burn as they had when he had first entered this room. His lids twitched, unsure if it was better to stay closed or open. He dragged himself onto his stomach and drew in as much air as he could until he felt an overwhelming sense of cold enter his throat. He coughed with such force that saliva dripped from his mouth. In between each cough, he would fight to drag in whatever air he could to make up for what he was pushing out.
His head pounded from the massive strain of the coughing. He willed himself to stop until slowly the coughing subsided, allowing him full breaths of air with the occasional interruption. He lay in the same spot, staring at the barely visible residue of a bloody footstep over the white floor.
He didn’t know how to make sense of anything that was happening. He touched his neck and winced as he felt the sting from the fingers over his neck. He was supposed to be a rational man. He was supposed to be in control.
He hesitated before croaking into his unit, “What happened?”
He was still on edge and could see Nee fresh in his mind, on top of him. She said nothing forcing him to check the unit, dreading that this meant his nightmares were not over.
He booted it up and a moment later heard Nee’s voice, sending a chill through him. “Hello James.”
“Why were you off?”
“You wanted no distractions,” she said.
“Fuck!” he said, sending him into a fit of coughs. The image of Patricia running out of oxygen and fighting for her next breath inside her suit, all alone in the vast depths, crossed his mind as he forced himself to breathe. He struggled to get up and made his way as fast as he could through the rooms and into the airlock. He ordered Nee to open the outer gate and tapped the manual sensor repeatedly, even as she worked at doing the same task. He checked his unit for the timer he had set for Patricia’s approximate oxygen count. Negative three minutes. The sealed doors began to open as if a royal guard of snails had been charged with the opening and closing of the outer chamber.
He stood in front of the transparent wall, looking out at the empty chamber, his nerves on edge. He didn’t want to be responsible for her death too. Maybe he really was destined to be alone, or should be. He was the only common denominator that brought pain and destruction to every relationship he had been unable to cultivate. He was cursed to fuck himself forever.
The doors finally opened revealing a tranquil and desolate entrance. He had expected to find her body slumped in the sand as she had banged on the door repeatedly, hoping he would hear her and have a change of heart until she passed out. He shook his head of the thoughts. There was no way this was his fault. By the look of it, Patricia had never even made it back to the gates. Her death was on her. She had chosen to go out into the depths with a limited supply of air. He had played no part there.
Shame. He had really started to appreciate what they had.
He reached for the manual sensor, ready to seal the doors. A small gloved hand slapped down near the edge of the gate causing a small cloud of dust to dance in the water. His heart spiked as he saw Patricia slowly drag herself into the opening.
He got a bad feeling as he watched how slowly she moved. As if something was close by, waiting to follow her in.
“Come on,” he growled. “Hurry up Patricia. Hurry the fuck up.”
She dragged her legs up to her knees and crawled. The moment he saw her feet clear the gate he slammed the sensor, initializing the sealing of the chamber.
As slowly as it had opened, it closed. He watched the open waters closely, sure that something would appear at the last moment. Knowing that he would had saved her from one death for one much worse.
The gates closed and he tapped desperately at the sensor to repressurize the room. His eyes were glued to Patricia’s sprawled out body. He heard the small alarm as it warned them of the release of water and he went to the metal door that stood between them. He could see her through the tiny transparent window at the center of the door.
The water seemed to make no progress. He wondered if this is how she had felt when it had been his turn out there. Watching him passed out and wondering if she had been just moments too late to do anything but watch him die.
At least she had never made any promises to him.
His hand hovered over the sensor of the metal door until a voice announced the water had been released and depressurization had begun. He tapped the sensor repeatedly, focusing on the little puddles of water around her body. The voice announced its completion and he used the underside of his fist to slam the sensor until it released and Jimmy put his weight into the door, almost falling face first as it slid open.
He ran through the puddles and slid himself on his knees next to her body. Her eyes were closed and he felt his hands trembling as he touched the releases around the base of her helmet. He ripped the thing off and chucked it across the chamber.
“Patricia,” he said loudly as if she would somehow come back to life because of the beauty of his voice. “Get up.” Her eyes remained closed. He pulled Nee to his lips and said, “Do something!”
“What would you like me to do?” said Nee in a tone too calm for the situation.
“Save her fucking life!” he yelled. The air fell unbearably silent. He could hear his own heartbeat and breaths heavy. “Nee, please?”
It felt as if Nee were contemplating whether she wanted to help. Her voice finally cut the silence and said, “Dr. Watts is equipped with a defibrillator mode. You may be able to physically provide oxygen to her by pinching her nose and breathing air into her lungs. If you are not comfortable with that there may be a unit with the medical supplies in the locker rooms along with adrenaline. Would you like me to guide you through the-”
“Yes!” he said. He tapped the releases on the suit and took off the top so as to reach her personal assistance unit on her arm. Nee spoke in the background instructing him on the manual inputs.
Once defibrillator mode was engaged, he opened his mouth and pressed his own lips over hers. He fought the urge to allow his tongue to snake in and focused on blowing as much air as he could into her lungs. Her cheeks expanded and he felt her chest inflate. He unlocked from her lips and pressed the sensor on her unit which counted down. 3,2,1.
There was no sound. Her body tensed from the shock, only to return to the same lifeless state. Nee instructed him to try again. He pinched her nose again and took the biggest breath he could, releasing it all into her. 3,2,1.
Her body tensed up, this time twitching even after it came down.
“I recommend you search for adrenaline. I will continue-” started Nee.
Patricia began to cough with enough force to threaten her eyes to pop from their sockets. He felt his throat clear as he watched her desperately trying to breathe. He wanted to smile, to express his delight in some way, but all he could do was hold her head in his lap and stare at her like a child who’s fear is so powerful it keeps him from even crying.
“You’re-” Patricia began before coughing again. He touched his own throat, becoming aware of how dry and uncomfortable it felt. He gently pushed on the cuts and bruising around his neck. “You’re a bastard,” she croaked.
“Better you find out now,” he said, flashing a cocky grin out of habit.
She chuckled into a cough. “I honestly thought you’d left me to die on purpose,” she said, clearing her throat as she spoke.
“I would like to think I’m a better person than that,” he said. Liar. You’re the worst type of person. You left her to die.
Patricia tried to sit up and Jimmy pushed on her back to help her. She patted down the part of the suit Jimmy had removed as if searching for something. “Why did you lock the doors?”
I…don’t remember. “Precaution,” he said. At least his tone was on point. If she had been looking at him, even he wouldn’t have been able to convince her. He made sure his suit was sealed to the top so she would not see the marks around his neck.
She said nothing. He wasn’t sure if that was a good sign or if he should be prepared for potential blowback at a later point. He felt a prompt from his unit which he allowed.
“Dr. Watts,” said Nee as Patricia pulled out a small bag from the suit. “I believe your AI may be defective.”
Patricia turned around and said, “Is that so?” before placing her free hand on the floor to help herself to her feet.
“Yes, it made no attempt to save your life,” said Nee. “You should consider upgrading to a new model.”
Patricia laughed, causing her to cough again. “Never miss an opportunity, right?” she said to Jimmy. She walked toward the open door, prompting Jimmy to follow. “It’s not defective. I asked it not to.”
When Nee said nothing, Jimmy took her place. “Why?” he said, entering the airlock control room. “You could’ve died.”
“I think that’s the point, James,” she responded.
They entered the labs where Patricia placed the small bag over the long table where they had initially restrained the creature. “To be honest, I had forgotten about that,” continued Patricia as she dumped the contents of the bag onto the flat surface. There were small metal parts he recognized, attachments to the units. “I would have reconsidered it if I would have been told all this would happen.” She looked at Jimmy. “Do you have the unit?”
He didn’t. He couldn’t remember what had been done with it. Nee had taken it, hadn’t she? He shook his head of the thought and made his way toward the first lab, hoping it would be in there. It lay directly in front of the seat to the system, the same log ready to be replayed. He quickly removed it from the display and relocked the unit before taking it back to Patricia.
Patricia fingered through the different parts on the table. “You know what to do?” she said with a smile. “I’m only a psychologist.”
Jimmy raised his eyebrows. “Great,” he said, slowly nodding. She turned back toward the unit and kept separate parts. “I’m starting to think the only ones with sense around here are our AIs.”
“My thoughts exactly,” said Patricia with a raspy voice. When Jimmy said nothing back she continued, “I figured your AI might be able to guide us through it. It seems well equipped.”
She. “You realize you nearly died for this, right?” he said. Patricia shrugged. “I really hope you found something out there because Nee will be nearly useless without a connection.”
“I didn’t,” said Patricia.
“Why didn’t you think of asking Nee or myself if she knew about this first?” he said after a moment.
Patricia spun around. “Why does it matter? It was my life, not yours.”
“I…” he tried to respond but nothing came out.
“Right,” she said, a look of disappointment setting in. “I should have asked, I know, but I hadn’t expected to not find anything there either,” she shrugged, “Either way, we can ask it how.”
Her. Her name is Nee. He felt his unit buzz as Nee requested permission to interact with Patricia. “Go ahead Nee,” he said.
“Hardware installation is built into my database. I should be able to guide you through most of it, even without an active network,” she said, causing Patricia to make a triumphant ‘I told you so’ expression. “What type of chip are we installing?”
“Private network,” said Jimmy.
“Private networks are illegal and can have serious consequences if you are caught in possession of one,” said Nee.
“We’re aware. Can you do it?”
“I do not have the proper permissions in place to follow through with that type of command,” she said. Jimmy exhaled but before he could say anything to Patricia, Nee continued, “However, without an active network link, I may be able to access a similar unit with permissions already in place and adopt them.”
Patricia spun on her seat. When she spun back, she held Zoe’s unit with a grin.
Jimmy took it and asked, “Did you want me to link you directly?”
“Yes. Please remove Miss Ackles’ companion,” said Nee.
He ejected the present AI chip from Zoe’s unit and held it in his fist. It felt as if he were holding the last bit of Zoe and he should cherish it. He held out his hand to Patricia so she would take it, making sure to show no emotion that she would latch to. It was only a corrupt AI chip, nothing more. He realized he was sending Nee into a field of nightmares of her own. The unit had been damaged bad enough to corrupt the previous AI, which meant there was a big possibility the same could happen to her.
“Are you sure this is safe for you Nee?” he asked. He glanced at Patricia, feeling her judgement for his concern over something unreal.
“I will be fine James. There is no need to worry,” said Nee.
He ejected her and mounted the chip to the foreign unit. Moments in silence passed. Jimmy visualized her crawling through tunnels hitting dead end after dead end as the corruption trailed after her trying to fry her. He didn’t know if he would ever be able to replace her. She had learned so much about him because of the transfer of information from all the previous AI’s into her. If she became corrupt, she would be gone. Forever. And just like the others, it would be his fault.
“The code is incomplete,” she said unexpectedly. “The security build for this network is preventing me from replicating the code. However, a new chip would automatically program to this network.”
“Is that all that’s needed?” asked Patricia?
“Yes, the booster is functional. It is sending constant requests to link to empty channels.”
“Alright, let’s do this then,” said Jimmy.
It took some time for Nee to guide them through the installation of the new chip. Patricia and Jimmy waited patiently as Nee attempted to establish a connection until it seemed like there would be no end.
“Why did your father resent his?” said Patricia.
Jimmy looked up at her and blinked a few times. “I didn’t think you could actually hear me,” he said.
“It was hard to make out some words,” she said.
He felt naive for sharing so much. His eyes strayed from hers and his fingers touched the soon-to-be bruises on his neck. He should have stayed quiet and worked on the canvas. Distracted his mind instead of blabbing his fucking mouth. She was not supposed to have been able to hear it.
“Probably the same reason I do mine,” he said. “Made him feel, inadequate.”
“You feel it’s on purpose?” she said.
Jimmy smirked. “No,” he said, tapping his temple and immediately regretting it as he felt an ache threatening to return. “Up here I know it’s not, but after so many years of the same shit, it gets hard to tell the difference.”
“So you feel that you make your father feel incompetent?”
Jimmy burst into laughter. “Fuck no,” he said. “My parents are both delusional. They believe themselves to be the artistic saviors of mankind and will do anything possible to remind the world of it.” Jimmy’s smile faded and he stared at the ground. “He’ll never admit it but he was just jealous that my grandpa was so close to me and not him.”
“Why do you think that was?” asked Patricia.
“The old man told me he regretted being so distant with my dad,” said Jimmy. “I think he hoped being close with me would somehow bring them closer.”
“Do you wish you were closer to yours?”
He stared at her, turning the question over. “No,” he lied. It hurt to hear himself say it, but unburrowing what had gone down so deep would help no one. “He’s a pretentious asshole. Those types of people can only be close to other pretentious assholes, hence why my parents are together.” Patricia nodded as she scanned him. He could feel her trying to dig through his true feelings. “They only care about their careers and themselves,” he continued, “and that’s the way I like it.”
He forced himself to match her scrupulous look and realized how comfortable he had felt releasing all of this information to her. He wished he hadn’t lied to her. He could see her turning her cogs as she tried to formulate another way to pry him open further. Pliers taking his skull and cracking it as her fingers dug through his mind and turned all his comfort to anxiety. Spread out all his memories in plain sight, all the pain and sadness, loneliness and insecurities and realize that he was not the man he made himself out to be.
Realize he was a fraud and show the world that he was just as scared of being alone as the next.
“Miss Ackles, can you hear us?” said a distorted voice from Zoe’s unit.
“This is James Malto,” said Jimmy, jumping to any excuse to stop their conversation. He could feel Patricia’s eyes still on him, refusing to let go. “I can hear you.”
There was distorted silence from the other end until the voice cut back in. “Mr. Malto, glad to hear from you. Is Miss Ackles with you?”
“No,” he said in a cold tone. He adjusted his tone to seem distraught over the matter. “She’s dead.”
Static silence once again.
“What about Mr. Sullen?” said the distorted voice and afterwards, as if remembering, “and Mr. Roberts.”
“They’re all dead,” said Jimmy.
“How is that possible?” said the man.
“You sent us into a fucking deathtrap. That’s how!” he yelled, the release of frustration feeling good. “You didn’t even give us a goddamn warning!”
“Calm down James,” came the response from the rep.
“Fuck you! I have every right to not be calm,” said Jimmy. He let go of the sensor to speak and immediately pressed it again. “Who the fuck taught you to tell someone who’s elevated to calm down?”
Patricia laughed as she watched him, making him feel further entitled.
“I’m sorry James,” said the rep. Jimmy noted the use of his name again. “I only meant that I want to help but I need for us to-”
“If you wanted to help, you should have sent teams to extract the locals. Not a fucking trade team so we could sell bullshit to the dead.”
He felt Patricia’s hand over his leg and he turned to her. “We need them,” she said softly. He took a full breath and nodded.
“You’re right James,” third use of his name. This guy was either new or incapable of learning procedures. He felt like they should have put their best on this. It didn’t matter what time it was or where they were, you made it happen. “We should have filled all of you in. We were trying to avoid a panic and had lost touch with Galapagos some time back.” The man paused as if letting words sink in for Jimmy. “We didn’t know, and still don’t, what’s happening down there.”
Jimmy looked at Patricia who made it obvious she did not believe a word coming from the man’s lips. “Let me fill you in then,” said Jimmy, leaning in toward the unit. “Everyone’s dead.” He paused, giving the man the same time to let the words sink in as he had for Jimmy. “You’re the biggest organization in the world and expect me to believe that no one had any idea what was happening here?”
“Yes,” came a strong and confident female voice. He stared at the unit. “This is Aida Summers, head of security.”
“I know who you are Aida,” said Jimmy. At least they did assign the best, after all. He had met her briefly at Lumis’ yearly award shows when she had been publicly assigned her new title. She had been a fine looking woman, a few years older than he, with a look in her eyes that told him she was ready to take over the world. He had found her intriguing when she had been called on stage, even told himself he would make it a point to meet her when the ceremony had ended, but that had all gone out the window the moment he had been called up for his own award. An award he received every year to commemorate him as the best in his department, but his award nonetheless.
“As I do you, Mr. Malto,” she said without hesitation. “Hard to forget a man who leaves no room for competition.” A woman as powerful as her deserved his intrigue, but knowing she saw the same power in him sparked something else in him.
“It was my mistake,” she continued after a moment. “I own it. But in order to get you out, I need to know what’s happening.”
“Something killed everyone here. Zoe and the new guy died when the elevator malfunctioned. Roberts,” Jimmy paused thinking carefully about what to say, “the poor bastard gave up his life for me.”
“I’m sorry,” she said softly through the unit. “We’ll notify their families, as well as yours.”
“No,” he blurted out. “I’ll speak to my family when you get me out.”
“Of course,” she said. “Can you give me an idea of what we would be dealing with? What this ‘something’ is?”
“If I knew, I’d tell you,” he said. “Your people dragged it in as part of whatever project was being run down here.”
“You’re sure?” she said.
“We’re sure,” said Patricia confidently. “This is Dr. Patricia Watts, lead psychologist for the Expanse Project.”
“Dr. Watts, glad to hear you with us,” said Aida. “Is there anyone else we should know about?”
“Just us,” said Patricia.
A large inhale came through the line. “Would have been nice to cure hunger,” said Aida.
“Can’t argue with that,” said Patricia.
“Why would you keep that a secret?” asked Jimmy. His own secrets crossed his mind.
“Something like that could break us,” said Aida. “Announcing our findings would draw the attention of radical activist groups and create unrealistic expectations from the world. We had to be sure.”
“You can be sure it won’t stay quiet anymore,” said Jimmy. “People will want to point a finger somewhere.”
“I was hoping you could help me with that,” said Aida in a confidently flirtatious voice.
Patricia laughed, “And if we refused?” she said. Aida went silent. “Let me guess, there will be no rescue team and we’ll be left down here to die.”
“There is no rescue team either way,” said Aida after a long silence. “Not anytime soon.” Jimmy felt anger boil up in him. He glanced at Patricia who seemed completely unsurprised. “You said it yourself James, the elevator malfunctioned. It’s the only way we can get down there quickly.”
“So send them in a fucking shuttle,” growled Jimmy. “You sent me down here, you’re responsible for getting me back.”
“And I will,” she said softly. “I promise.”
“How?” said Patricia.
“The exploration pods,” said Aida. “I can guide you-”
“They’re flooded Aida!” he yelled. “All of them. Ninety percent of the fucking city is flooded. You expect me to walk back out there with that thing swimming around, waiting for us?”
“James,” said Aida sternly. “It’s your only way home.”
“Send a goddamn security unit and get us the fuck out of here,” said Jimmy.
“No,” she responded.
“I guess that answers that,” said Patricia.
“I can’t send a security team down there,” said Aida, her tone growing softer. “Not yet. If I do, our image is tarnished. This entire accident falls on Lumis. There would be no coming back from it.”
Jimmy forced himself to laugh. “Millions of people died because we refused to send any help. How are you expecting to spin that?”
“The truth,” said Aida.
“What truth?” said Patricia. “That you were negligent? Too absorbed with your image that you let millions of people die so you wouldn’t look bad? That your company is headed by idiots who don’t give a fuck about anything but their bottom line?”
The truth that they decide.
“There was no way anyone could have known,” said Aida.
Patricia watched Jimmy with a look of disbelief. He rested his elbows over the table and held his head between his hands. “This is ridiculous,” he said finally. “The suits are out of oxygen and the generator is not functioning.”
“I can help with that,” said Aida confidently. “I can also get you closer to the pods and provide you with a way to defend yourself.”
“How close?” he asked.
“To the private labs,” she said. “You would be only a few meters away.”
“You really have no fucking idea what’s going on down here…” he grumbled. “I’m in the labs already. I’m looking at the airlock. It’s a lot further than a few fucking meters.”
“I see,” she said. There was silence from the other end as if she were discussing something on the other end. “How did you get past the security without proper clearance?”
He closed his eyes and drew a deep breath. He needed to stay in control.
“How about I tell you about everything over dinner the moment I make it out of here alive?” he said, taking his tone to a low, seductive level.
He heard Aida chuckle on the other end, “I’ll get you out of there, I promise.”
“Good, I like tasting new things. Have someone find us a spot that would surprise me,” he said. Patricia was glaring at him as if disappointed.
“Since you’re already in the labs, there is some information I would appreciate you gather for me,” said Aida, dodging the subject.
Jimmy took Patricia’s look for fuel. Her jealousy wouldn’t stop him. He always did what he wanted. “Anywhere in the world, I like to travel,” he said. “Except, I’d prefer to stay far from the sea. I’m sure you understand.”
“James,” said Patricia. “Take this seriou-”
“I draw the line there, sorry,” he said with a grin. “Maybe in the future I’ll reconsider. It’s just a touchy subject for now.”
It was silent for a moment until the sound cut back in and a residue of laughter was heard before her words took over. “Alright James, I’ll find a spot to surprise you.”
“Well look at that,” he said with a sly grin as if Patricia had disappeared. “Now, I have a good reason to come home.” He paused briefly before saying, “Now could you please take this a little more seriously Aida? I’m trying to live for a special dinner I’ve got planned.”
He glanced at Patricia who stared at him with the same look of disbelief she had taken moments before. He made it a point to not let his smile waiver even though he felt the embarrassment wash over him. Her face went blank, as if she had come to some realization he was not privy to. She did not laugh or smile, just watched him without emotion as her wheels of judgement prepared her to store this for a later time.
“The system in the final room should hold most of the research that has not been uploaded since the blackout,” said Aida.
“I doubt my unit could hold that much information,” said Jimmy.
“As do I,” said Aida. “Which is why you’ll be downloading everything to the system’s internal drive and bringing that with you.”
“And how am I expected to do that?”
“I can guide you through the tear down process,” she said. When he said nothing she continued, “I can also show you how to get oxygen back into the suits so we can get you onto the pods and back home. It’ll be a bit of a walk.”
“Of course,” he said. “How far?”
“Oxygen control,” said Aida. He had a flash of terror picturing the path he had taken last time.
“James?” said Patricia, touching his arm and looking at him with concern. He nodded.
“That’s not bad,” he lied. “How will we get into the pods themselves?”
“You’ll be not far off from the living quarters,” Aida said. “I’ll need you to gather some unofficial research there.”
“Lagos,” said Patricia to herself.
“We’ll see how safe it is,” said Jimmy. He remembered the entrance to the living quarters being stacked up to prevent anything from getting in or out. Poor bastards hadn’t realized yet that it could get through the vents. They had holed themselves in the worst spot.
“Good. In the meantime, I’ll get someone to work on the pods for you,” she said.
“Work on the pods?” said Patricia to Jimmy.
“And I’ll find a nice spot for when you’re back,” continued Aida.
“She probably means explaining how to get inside them,” said Jimmy.
“Don’t be naive,” said Patricia.
“She said they’re functional, so did Nee,” said Jimmy. “Just means we’ve got to manually open them.”
“If we even can.”
“Let’s not get negative now,” said Jimmy. “We’ve found a way out. We’re getting off this thing.”
“We’re getting used as errand boys,” she said as she stood up. “Don’t you think they should be more concerned over the lives of the only two people left than their fucking research?”
Jimmy picked up Zoe’s unit. “You’re right, they should be more worried about our lives, but it didn’t seem to me like they were trying to force us to do any of this. They asked. They gave us the choice of saying no.”
“You think they would be so willing to help if you had?” she said. “Isn’t it interesting that we have to do something first and then we might get something?”
“If we get back on our own, we have our lives,” he said sternly. “If we get back with their records, we have our lives and we have leverage.”
They stared at each other until her eyes strayed. “You’re right,” she said, nodding gently. “You’re right.”
She looked defeated. Lost. The power and confidence she exuded were stripped by the self blame and inability that Jimmy was all too familiar with. He felt his lip curl as he watched her display of weakness so open in front of him.
“Maybe I’m just looking to blame someone else so there’s no room to blame myself,” she continued.
He saw his hand reach out to her and take her own, pulling her into an embrace. His disgust for her temporary show of weakness turned to sympathy. It was like his puppy was injured and had cried for his comfort. She held him tight as his eyes glanced around over her shoulder in a soft focus that made it seem as if they were attempting to scan invisible thoughts in the room.
“There will be someone to blame,” he said, “and we’ll find out who. As soon as we’re safe.” It was true, he would want to know who to point the finger towards, but he also knew that if it became too difficult he would give up and forget eventually.
“What if it’s me?” she said, pulling away to look at him.
“Was it?” he said.
“No,” she finally said. She tried to look away but he cupped her cheek and held her face in place.
He could feel the foreign sympathy washing away and yet, no room was given for his usual revulsion to return. A cocky grin spread as he looked into her eyes. “Then get your shit together and help me get us out so we can forget all about each other,” he said, giving her no room to say anything before he pressed his lips into hers. She made no attempt to pull away and instead Jimmy felt her own lips pucker.
He pulled away before she had a chance to press back, keeping his devilish grin on his face. Her eyes were closed as if she were trying to savor every bit of the moment. He waited until they opened and met his.
He cocked his head and said, “Come on.”