Maya sees it. The enormous struggle to let go of her, to push her away. And yet he doesn’t. She rests her fingertips on his collarbone, closing her eyes with a deep breath as he touches her face. She lightly traces with absolute accuracy the ink on his exposed skin. “I know every mark on you by heart,” she murmurs softly before she slowly opens her eyes.
She turns to the impatient cat on the table and addresses her politely in Spanish, giving a quick pat of invitation to her lap should the feline choose to get acquainted. “My apologies, Señorita Gatita. I didn't mean to ignore you,” Maya says with a respectful nod before leaning back into the crook of Stroi’s shoulder, pulling her feet up onto the couch.
Looking out the window at the morning sky she begins where she’d begun all other conversation they’d ever had in the past. She begins with his name. “Mihai, you probably think we are strangers. Perhaps we are to some extent, but not in the ways you think. You don’t have to hide the worst of who you are from me, nor can you frighten me off with it. You—or the you I knew—already shared much of it. I grew up with you, cariño. I carry as much of your past with me as I do my own.”
“I know you wouldn’t have let me know who you are if you didn’t believe it absolutely necessary. Even in my imagination, you were always a bit of a curmudgeon,” she whispers with a tentative smile that disappears quickly as she tries to explain her own history, not knowing what he’s seen or how.
“This man, Hyuk, was my keeper in Seoul. There was some sort of deal made when I was a child with my family and the factions. They weren’t that interested in me until I was older. I don’t really understand it all even now. But this man used his position to do terrible things, unspeakable things. Not just to me but to others. I am descended from women who have shared their powers with each new generation for thousands of years. I am now the last of my kind,” she says quietly, “because of him.”
Maya moves to face him, her eyes open and honest. “I have seen all of you, bad and good, for much of both our lives. I’m not here to do anything but what I’ve always done. I've believed in you.”
Her voice shakes a little as she continues, but she does not look away even as her heart feels like it’s going to beat itself out of her chest. “So yes, I know what I am asking. Now I am asking you to believe in me.”