His head rested in her lap, his breath coming in short, sharp gasps.
“That was so stupid,” she whispered, fighting to speak around the fist-sized lump in her throat. They had promised they would take care of each other during their mission, that’s what partners were for, after all. He had held up his end of the deal. She hadn’t.
“Did . . . what . . . I had to . . .”
Each word obviously took extreme effort, and she put a finger to his lips to stop him. As she did, she realized she still had her gun in her other hand, finger poised over the trigger, ready for the shot she never got the chance to take.
“The painting was the most important thing, not me you big dummy,” she tried to smile, but his breath was shallow and his eyes were unfocused.
“Now . . . we have both . . .” His fist tightened around the rolled up parchment, the art that had cost him his life.
“But what do I do now? You were the only one that knew how to translate the map on the back. Without that map, we can’t complete the mission. Without you, we fail.”
She was getting emotional, she could feel it. They had been trained to remain calm under all circumstances, but no one had ever taken a bullet for her. How did you train for something like that?
Before she could go on, he held out a hand to silence her. He touched her cheek and opened his mouth. She leaned forward so she could hear him, his voice growing fainter by the moment.
“You . . .”
She shook her head, “I’m not trained in the old language.”
His hand fell from her cheek to her chest, resting over her heart. “You were born with it. You’ve had it inside yourself the whole time . . .”
“But, I’m not worthy,” she whispered. As she did his hand fell from her chest and she knew he hadn’t heard her.
“Psst, are you dead yet?”
His eyes popped open and his head jerked up. “Aww, come on! I was really getting into it.”
“I know. It was a bit much don’t you think? ‘You’ve had it inside yourself the whole time?’ Really?”
“Look who’s talking! ‘I’m not worthy?’”
She rolled her eyes and stood up, brushing off her leather pants, adjusting her holster and replacing the plastic gun. She reached down and grabbed his hand, pulling him to his feet as the rest of the role-playing groups finished their scenarios.
“C’mon, let’s go. The Speed Dating for Trekkies session will be starting soon, and I don’t want to get stuck with a Spock again. Vulcans are so boring.”