“My name is Elijah,” the Demi said as soon as Valorie stopped before him.
They stared at each other as Tavia tried to understand what exactly Valorie had called him. AUE-Eleven? That wasn’t any kind of a name, maybe it was code for something, but the tension between the pair wasn’t the kind she could just cut through with her questions.
“It’s amazing you’ve managed to cling to that for so long,” Valorie muttered.
She shook her head, and then glanced towards the side, at Tavia.
“You should leave,” she said.
Tavia nodded, already in agreement. Even if she hadn’t been told to, she didn’t want to be involved in whatever business these two people were about to handle.
“No,” Elijah said. “Stay, if there’s an unrelated witness, I’m sure we’ll both be on our best behavior. I’m not here to fight with you, Valorie, or would you prefer I call you the binder?”
“I’d prefer you say nothing and get lost. What are you even doing, showing your face here? Are you already sick and tired of the outside world?”
Valorie placed a hand on her hip as she sneered at Elijah. Her demeanor was so different from her attitude inside the lab that it almost seemed as if this was an entirely different person. Dressed in a prim business suit, her attitude made it seem like she was talking down to a misbehaving employee, but in comparison, Elijah’s expression was on of pain and desperation.
Tavia took another step away, but froze when Elijah’s gaze flicked to her for a moment. He didn’t say anything, but the look in his eyes seemed to beg her to stay. She stopped where she was, drawing her shoulders together as she tried to make herself small as possible. She should have walked away the moment she noticed Elijah. How did she get herself involved in these kinds of things?
There wasn’t even anyone around who could potentially take her spot. Voices of students passing from class to class echoed through the air in the distance, but there wasn’t anyone in sight of the labs. Even if she wanted to, there wasn’t anyone she could rope into being her replacement. Her gaze moved to the lab, but it was unlikely they’d let her drag Alvis or Jaiden out here. Though Valorie hadn’t said anything, she’d been very careful to close the door behind her before saying anything to Elijah, and Elijah certainly wouldn’t consider the son of the woman he was confronting to be “unrelated.”
Elijah leveled her with a pained gaze, the bright sheen to his eyes seeming to dim for a moment.
“You know there’s no way that’s true,” he said. “Don’t you think… this is far beyond cruel, even for you?“
“Cruel?” Valorie asked. “Are you saying you’d prefer to have never been allowed to leave?”
“Did you really come here just to complain?” Valorie said. “I find it hard to believe even you would be that foolish.”
She stepped forward, her gaze turning cold and harsh.
“You wanted to have a talk with me, but you chose to have it here of all places. Is that really what someone who wants to talk would do?”
Valorie wasn’t a particularly tall woman, but the pressure she gave off made her loom over the fidgeting Elijah, but despite his unease, he didn’t back down.
“It isn’t as if I can simply approach you anywhere,” he said. “You know that as well as I.”
“Was this Ikarios’s plan?” Valorie asked. “Send you here so I feel pressured?”
At Ikarios’s name, Tavia flinched. Though she’d mentioned him to Elijah before, he hadn’t said anything about him in reply to her. Valorie didn’t miss Tavia’s tense reaction, and she turned on Tavia.
“So you’re in on it too? An unrelated party? Did you get close to my son on his orders?” she asked.
“I— what?” the sudden hostility turned in her direction made Tavia lose track of her answer.
She didn’t like Ikarios any better than this woman, but before Tavia could straighten out her thoughts to reply to Valorie, Elijah was already replying in her stead.
“I just met her today,” he said. “She has no connection to us.”
Valorie’s expression said she didn’t believe it, but at least her anger was directed at Elijah now instead of Tavia. There was no sneaking away now though, Tavia was stuck by a combination of bad luck and misunderstandings. She took a look around, hoping someone would draw near.
Despite their heightened emotions, neither Elijah nor Valorie were raising their voices, whatever their issue here was, they didn’t want anyone else involved. If a stranger were to pass by now, maybe they’d stop and Tavia could escape. Unfortunately for her, the path remained empty. This wasn’t normal. No matter what time she passed through this area, there were always people coming and going. So where was everyone?
Though Elijah was sickly, he was still a Demi, and there was really no telling what he was capable of. Valorie certainly seemed alarmed to see him here. Even if he was harmless though, if Tavia tried to leave them behind, considering that Valorie was already looking at her as an enemy, the one Tavia might have to worry about would be this woman, not Elijah.
“Let me make one thing perfectly clear to you and that bastard,” Valorie said. “If you so much as lay a hand on my son, I’ll make sure the ones you couldn’t protect suffer in your stead.”
“I’m not here to threaten you,” Elijah replied. “I just want you to let me go.”
“Let you go? Aren’t you already enjoying your freedom?” she asked with a sneer. “To think you’d come crawling back to me for just that reason.”
“You know exactly what I mean. You people have done so many horrible things, but this is really beyond the pale. If you didn’t intend to let me go, then why did you have to choose me to deliver your message?”
Elijah’s face flushed as his calm tone finally broke down into a demand for answers. Valorie gave him a cool look in response and then sighed.
“You’re wasting your time here,” she said. “If I were you, I’d try to make the most out of my freedom.”
“You can’t even call this ‘freedom,” Elijah said, his hands curling into fists.
Valorie shook her head, placing a hand against her forehead in disbelief.
“I really can’t believe you’d actually come ask me to—“
She froze, her expression changing to an ice cold look of dread. She lowered her hand and looked around at their surroundings, her gaze moving past Tavia as if she wasn’t even there.
“I see,” she said. “So that’s your plan?”
Her lip curled up in a sneer, as the look in her eyes turned dark.