Now came the hard part.

He took a deep, calming, cleansing breath and let it out slowly, breathing out that little piece of that little piece of himself he’d work so long and so hard to develop, and directing it into Macey. Flesh to flesh. Mind to body. Person to person.

'Tenshi was sobbing and fighting and trying to get to them, but strong hands held him back and he was too small and too young. Not too small to fight, but too small to win and the hands held him easily as cruel laughter cut the night air like a blade and he couldn’t get to them. He couldn’t get to them.

'Tenshi was practicing his best grip. Cut, cut, shuffle, cut at the ace of spades. Cut, cut shuffle, cut at the ace of spades. The game was in an hour and the mark had to win, but he had to think it was chance. By the time he realized the payoff was twenty stacks of blank paper they’d all be in the wind. ____ would get him to the table. _____ would pull the switch. Tenshi couldn’t control those, but the deal was his. It was his job to keep the mark in the game and betting. To keep him from winning too much. Or losing too much. So he practiced. Cut, cut, shuffle, cut…

'Tenshi was face down in a quarter meter of seawater, trying to push himself up above the surface again with his arms for… What? The fiftieth time? The hundredth? He had no idea. No idea what he was getting into. It was only the first day. There was no end in sight. How could it be this hard? All he had to do was roll over and lift his head and he could breathe, but if he did they’d know they’d beaten him. Better to breathe the water.

'Tenshi was showing the little Asian bodyguard the hanger and wishing he could show him the door. He could hear the amusement in his voice when he spoke. He could feel that gentle tug at something deep inside of him, but he wouldn’t give in. He could feel the weight of that stare, but he wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of turning his direction.

'Tenshi was in the street, surrounded by his squad. He pulled the trigger the first time and felt something go dead inside him.

'Tenshi was sitting up after going down and snatching his helmet back from Chavez.

'Tenshi was pushing out through the alley toward the extract, still so terrified he could barely keep his feet moving, still half-sure the next five minutes would be his last.

'Tenshi was coming back the same way.

'Tenshi was surrounded by people and still sitting alone with his doubts.

'Tenshi was going to make it.

'Tenshi was running out to help Forrest.

'Tenshi was dragging him back.

'Tenshi was down again and dying and then everything was dark and then, when hope was gone, a dim light warmed the void and there was something touching his hurt and he knew what it was, and who it was, and he knew, suddenly, how badly he’d wanted to feel that touch, since that first day, since that first time he’d seen that stupid smirk on that perfect face, and to feel it now, like this, covered in blood and pain and death—

Tenshi pulled his hand away from her skin and used a corner of her shirt to wipe the area so he could see it. The flesh was smooth and healthy and there was no visible sign that she’d ever been injured at all.