You are viewing a story from harrypotterfanfiction.com
View Online | Printer Friendly Version of Entire Story
Chapter 14: Treacherous Waters
- Game of Thrones
James quickly apparated to his flat as soon as he was within apparating distance in St. Mungo's. He apparated directly into it, and once he was inside, he took care of the immediate necessary things first. He tapped his wand against his wrist and healed the damage he had caused with the glass. He actually gave a grunt of frustration when the blood and broken patched itself up and he could once again see the red scar in the shape of a lightning bolt on his wrist, now gleaming bright red and oozing blood from the damage he had done.
It only fueled his anger once more. In an act of hopeless anger and desperation, he shouted loudly and picked up the thing nearest to him, a vase for show with an arrangement of flowers, and he hurtled it across the room with a roar. It smashed against the wall and shattered into tiny pieces, glass and flowers flying about in all directions.
"James?!" Norah gave a call from further inside the flat, clearly startled by his outburst. She suddenly came scampering out around a corner and peered into the living room where she saw James throwing things in complete rage and shouting at the top of his lungs.
She gasped in surprise at the sight of him. She had seen him angry before but never like this. What on earth had happened?
It was only since the day at Azkaban that she had been afraid of his anger. She had always been able to stand up to him; in fact, sometimes Norah being the only one to defy him was sometimes what he needed to set him straight, such as the day he seized in the Quidditch tent after a match and he had told her he didn't need her. She had waited by his side in silence as he seized, and then she had left without a word as a form of her own defiance. He had needed that to set him straight. She always knew what to do in a way, but over the past three years, she would find herself lost when it came to his anger. These days there always seemed to be nothing that could be done over whatever it was that made him angry.
And now, seeing him like this was an absolutely terrifying prospect. She immediately began to shake. This was an entirely new games to her, and she wanted to disappear from the room and just let him have at it, but she knew she couldn't do that. She was better than that; she was often the only thing that could bring him back. So she knew that wasn't an option.
"J-James, what is it?" she asked, albeit uneasily.
"Fucking ridiculous!" he roared as he kicked over the coffee table.
She jumped as the legs on the wood crashed into the ground again and snapped from the impact.
"James, please!" she begged of him, actually terrified of him and what he might do. "Please, stop!"
"I - can't - believe - it!" he yelled again.
"Stop, James!" she demanded that time, raising her voice with authority.
That was when he briefly stopped his rampage to look at her. She caught his eyes then for the first time since she had seen him begin his demolishing of their living room. They were swimming with tears, and while, yes, there was anger in them, there was something else there. Something much more despairing and saddening. He wasn't just angry; he was hurting and in pain. She could see that much.
It pained her heart, and her first thought was that Albus had died, but something told her that wasn't the case.
She was scared to approach him, but she knew it would be the only thing that stopped him. He clawed at his face with his nails, his hand straining to grasp something and to tear it apart with his anger. So jumped forward and grabbed his hands, desperate to understand what he was going through.
"Please, Jamie," she begged. "Calm down. Whatever it is, just calm down and talk to me about it."
"People need to stop telling me to fucking calm down!" he roared and tried to pull his hands away from Norah's grasp.
She held onto him, though. She didn't want him to start flinging anymore of their things left and right. He could have gotten free if he wanted, but he didn't try hard enough. Not yet at least. But that was when something caught her eye. Something red on his right wrist and bleeding slightly. Something she had never noticed before. A scar in a familiar shape. She looked to it in surprise and raised his wrist in questioning.
He looked at it, and then his anger was back. This time he yanked it fully free of her grasp and spun around to kick the table again.
"I know what it is!" he roared. "It's a fucking horcrux!"
Norah gasped in disbelief. She knew what it was. The term had been almost unheard of before the world knew why Harry Potter had been able to come back from the dead. But how did James have one?
"What?!" she breathed. "How is that possible?!"
"I don't know! But my father's been lying to me! For three years! Since Azkaban! He hid it for me! He knew what it was, and he hid it from me!"
"But who - "
"PARKER NAMKEN!" James screamed the name like the devil he believed it to be. His tears finally escaped his eyes and rolled down his cheeks, and he quaked in the spot with an unbelievable amount of anger.
"Oh my god..." gasped Norah. She didn't understand how this could possibly be true; she didn't know how Parker could be alive or possibly have a horcrux, but she couldn't question it now. She could grasp that concept later, but for now she had to be there for James.
"Okay, Jamie," she encouraged, and she pulled him into her arms, "listen to me. Just take a deep breath. I know this must be crazy for you and impossible to comprehend, but being angry about it and breaking things isn't going to change any of it."
He weakly tossed about in her arms, closing his eyes and trying to stifle his cries. "I can't handle this. I can't, I can't, I can't. He can't be in me. I feel so defiled. So disgusting. I can't believe this."
"I know," she whispered, and she stroked his cheek as he tossed his head about. "I'm sorry. Really, but you have to pull it together, and don't think about how this is bringing you down. So we know who hurt Al. It was Parker. This gives us an advantage over Parker, doesn't it?"
"Yes, but...I just want him out," he moaned, "I just want him out. Get him out, Norah. Please just get him out!"
"I know, baby, I know," she encouraged. "Please. Just relax. Take a moment and just accept it. He's there; nothing can be done about it now."
James continued to shake, and in that moment, Norah saw his anger return to him. "I'm so - fucking - angry!" he raged. "At my father! At Parker! At Parker for surviving that day! For hurting my brother! I want him dead! He needs to die! I'll kill him for this. I'll do to him what he did to Albus!"
Norah couldn't believe what she was hearing. She knew revenge was a motivating in factor in everyone; everyone had it in them somewhere. She even had it deep down, but she had never heard James speak so vilely. But now she knew why. She knew why he was so angry all the time, why he had such a short fuse, why his wrist bothered him. It was because of this. His horcrux on his wrist. And she had to remind him of that. This anger and revenge wasn't James. It was Parker.
"Stop it!" she demanded. "Listen to yourself. This isn't you anymore, and you know it. You were never such an angry and hateful person! This is Parker in you talking."
As much as James knew this to be true, he hated to hear it. What did this mean about himself for the past three years? What did he truly know about himself to be true? Nothing. He felt his knees give out with fear, and he sank to the ground. He pulled his knees to his chest and buried his face in between them in fear.
"I don't know who I am anymore," he moaned. And he truly didn't. Like Norah and his father, he knew that he was the way he was these days because of the horcrux. So what did that make him? After three years, how could he possibly differentiate between the real him and the Parker-Namken-influenced one. "I don't know, Norah. I don't know. Who am I?"
"Shh," she whispered, and she gracefully slid down to the floor with him. She wrapped her arms around him, and he fell into her open embrace, nudging his head into the crook of her neck. "You're my Jamie, and that's all you need to know. But you can't let revenge fuel you like that. Let justice be your motivation because, if you go after Parker in revenge, that makes you no better than him."
It took him a moment to truly listen to her words. He knew she was right. He couldn't act out on revenge like that. Norah was right; it would make him no better than Parker. He would be just like him, trying to hurt someone for the sake of revenge for your own family. No matter how desperately and how badly he wanted to act on revenge. No matter how badly he wanted to tear him limb from limb. Despite the fact that revenge was his number one reason and motivator for finding Parker, he knew he had to be the better person.
He finally nodded, and he took a few moments to recuperate, grateful for Norah's consoling as she rubbed his back. His thoughts went back to how stupid he was to have missed Parker right in from of him. Dating Clancy even.
Wait. His thoughts suddenly came to an abrupt halt. He was dating Clancy. Did this mean she knows who he is? Or was she being tricked? Did she know what his grand scheme was? Was she being forced to date him? Or worse, was Parker just using her and her Seer abilities just to get to James? Too many questions.
But he suddenly knew of something he had to do. He had to go to her. He had to talk to her, to ask her these questions no matter the cost. If she was in danger, he wanted to help her.
Norah noticed that he his mind was running rampant with new and urgent thoughts, for she could feel him grow extremely stiff beneath her touch. She finally peeled herself off of his form and looked him in the eye. She found him wide-eyed, starring off into the distance as he thought, his mouth slightly open in shock. "James? What is it now?"
He quickly rose from the ground, leaving Norah to look after him in surprise. He swallowed, trying to moisten his throat that had dried out. He pulled Norah to her feet so he could speak to her properly.
"I have to go to Clancy," he said quickly. He knew he couldn't take ages to explain. Not if Clancy's safety was on the line. So he knew he would simply have to give Norah the basics and hope that she would put her trust in him.
"What?" she questioned. She seemed slightly surprised, but James knew that she would have been slightly appalled in any other situation. She had already heard the most ridiculous and unimaginable thing she was going to hear for the day, the news of a horcrux in James, so any other surprise that came her way felt like a walk in the park to her. "Why?"
"I can't take forever to explain, but I've spoken to Parker. In person. And recently. He's going by a false name, but he's Clancy O'Dell's boyfriend. Clancy could be in trouble, Norah. She could be in danger. I have to tell her who he truly is while I still have a chance."
Norah clamped her mouth shut. Even she, who was a woman of little jealousy and hatred, found that it was hard for her to be open to the idea of James talking to Clancy or even being associated with her again. But this made sense. James was right. She could be in danger, and James was the only one who could intervene. So she forced down whatever discomfort she felt, and she nodded.
"I understand. Go," she said quickly, and pointed to the door. "Go get her."
James embraced her lightly and gave her a swift kiss, grateful for her understanding.
"Thank you," he said quietly against her mouth.
With that he apparated out of the living room and to the front door of Clancy's flat. He immediately began banging on the wood of the door. He didn't know if he was going about this the wrong way, if he should have done something to hide himself from Parker if Parker was inside as well, but he didn't even take the time to think that through. All he thought of was Clancy's safety.
"Clancy!" he shouted. "Open up! It's James!"
It was only after a minute more of his banging did the door open up to reveal Clancy. She was completely surprised by his appearance, and she seemed startled by his abruptness.
"James?" she asked, her dark eyebrows pulling together with confusion. "What the hell are you doing here?"
"I have to speak to you. Is Nolan here?" James asked, careful to use Parker's fake name for the moment.
She shook her head, not taking on the sense of urgency that James had. "No, he's not. He's out. I actually don't know where he is. Why?"
That was all James needed to know. He reached for her hand, and with her hand, he stepped into her flat, tugging her with him and shutting the door behind him. When they were safe inside, he immediately got right down to business. He ignored her appalled looks completely.
"I know this is going to sound ridiculous, and sorry for showing up like this. But you have to listen to me," he said quickly.
"All right..." she said slowly and uneasily, folding her arms across her chest as James released her hand.
"Your boyfriend," he began. "He's not who he says he is. He's a lying bastard! He is not Nolan Paxton. His real name is Parker Namken. He's the son of the man who tried to kill my family three years ago. I'm sure you know about the events at Azkaban and the Namken family. Clancy, you have to listen to me. Parker Namken is alive and he's been masquerading as Nolan Paxton."
"What?" gasped Clancy, flabbergasted. She didn't know what to believe. "That's ridiculous. Of course I know about what happened at Azkaban. Everyone does, but Parker Namken died."
"I thought so too," said James, and then he thrust his wrist forward, the scar still blazing bright and bleeding from when James had cut himself, "but look. This scar is identical to my father's. It was hidden from me all these years, but he's alive. He's alive because he's been inside me. He has a horcrux, and it's me. Parker is alive, and he's seeking revenge for the death of his father. You have to believe me!"
"James, I..." she said quickly and faltered, for she didn't quite know what to say. She didn't know if she believed him; this was utter nonsense. "No, this is crazy. Nolan is not Parker Namken."
"He is! You have to trust me!" he hissed, and he found himself growing impatient.
"No," she shook her head in protest. Even if she had every right to believe James, she didn't want to. She didn't want to believe that the man she was in love with was a raging, evil, revenge-seeking nineteen-year-old boy. No, this was her Nolan. Nolan, her sweet Nolan. Twenty-two and, albeit one with a crazed temper, sweet and caring. "No. I don't believe you. He's Nolan."
"Clancy!" whispered James sharply, and he abruptly grabbed hold of her. He held her face in his hands to force her to look him in the eye. He just wanted her to feel and understand his desperation in this situation. He truly didn't have any feelings for Clancy, but their past together did make him feel more comfortable to touch her when he felt it was necessary. "Stop choosing to be ignorant, and listen to me! He stabbed my brother! Albus is dying in the hospital because Parker stabbed him! I know Parker, and he's been disguised as Nolan."
"He's not!" she shouted, batting his hands away from her face.
"Trust me!" James emphasized.
Clancy bit down on her lip. She couldn't handle this. She violently shook her head and pointed for the door. "No," she moaned. "I don't believe you. Nolan isn't Parker Namken! He - "
"Please, Clancy!" begged James. Why wouldn't she believe him? Could she not see how desperate he was, how truly terrified he actually was? They were wasting precious time. Parker could be back at any moment; he could see James and know what he was doing. If Clancy didn't choose to believe him, then she could get hurt in the end.
"You need to leave!"
"Why won't you believe me?!" he demanded to know. "You're in love with an evil, evil man who just wants to kill my family! I can promise you he doesn't love you. He's just dating you to get to me!"
"Shut up!" she shouted. That was enough. She couldn't listen to him anymore. She pushed at his chest until James stumbled back and toward the door. When they were close enough, she reached around him and opened it, pushing him against the threshold once more. "You're lying! You have no right to say that. You need to leave, James."
"I am begging you, Clancy," moaned James desperately. "Please. All I'm thinking about right now is your safety from him. I don't want you to get hurt!"
"I won't! Now go!"
James growled in frustration. How could he simply choose to leave her here, knowing she could ultimately get hurt? What if Parker pulled her into his scheme? What was he to do?
"I'll go," said James quickly before he could stop himself, "if you promise to owl me tonight and tell me I'm wrong."
"Fine," agreed Clancy if that would get him out of her flat. "I'll owl you tonight, and I'll prove you're wrong. Now go."
James had no choice then but to leave. Clancy watched him apparate away, and when he had disappeared with that familiar crack, she retreated inside her home and shut the door. She stumbled back in shock until she lowered herself onto the couch where she took her head into her hands and entered a deep and bewildered state of thought.
James couldn't be serious, could he? But then where had that scar come from? That didn't mean it was Parker alive in him though, did it? And it certainly didn't mean that it was her Nolan in him. Something deep inside her told her to believe James, to just give him a chance and listen to him, to not be so thick and ignore him without hearing him out. She felt as if he could potentially be right, but she didn't want to believe it. She was in love with him, and she refused to believe that she was in love with a killer.
She didn't know how much time had passed as she sat there, but as it did, she found herself wondering more and more where Nolan was. He should have been home a long time ago.
She didn't know what time it was when the front door finally opened and she looked up to see Nolan stroll happily inside. He gave her his normal cheeky grin as he shut the door behind him. He walked over to Clancy and dropped her a kiss. When his lips touched hers, she felt the uncontrollable urge to burst into tears. She wanted to cry. Sure, Nolan was an easily angered soul and he had a dark past that he didn't wish to share, but she loved him.
But even as those thoughts entered her mind, she knew James had to be right. Easily angered, dark past, unwilling to share. He fit the description of a guy who was masquerading with a false identity to hide that he's truly a revenge seeking killer.
She clung to him, though. She savored the kiss, for she knew she would have to confront him. One way or the other, and something in the pit of her stomach told her there would be no coming back from that. So she kissed him deeply. Her hands went into his hair, and she tugged on his long, brown locks. She inhaled the scent of him. She memorized his every move as he leaned over her to kiss her.
When he finally pulled away, he chuckled briefly. "Wow," he mused, "maybe I need to come home late more often."
Clancy disregarded his comment and let him move away from her. She watched him turn his back to her as he shed his jacket.
"I've been thinking," he thought aloud, his back still to her as he took his time to unwind for the day. "You and I should get out of this place for a bit. You know, go away. Just the two of us."
That was unusual, she thought. Why ask that now? Now out of all days after James had accused Nolan of stabbing Albus Potter? Why take her away now? Was he trying to hide her from something? Or someone?
It was now or never, and she knew it. She didn't know what she was thinking or what her plan was, but she found herself treading into treacherous waters before she could think twice.
"Parker...?" she squeaked uneasily.
"Ye - " he answered aloud, and quite happily too. He cut off his reply in the middle, and she watched him still as he set his jacket down. He hand froze on the leather material, his back to her, and he straightened. His voice was cool, dark, and different when he spoke again. "Where did you hear that name?"
That was when Clancy finally cried. So it was true. She gave a small sob, and at the sound of her crying, Parker whipped around. His look was dark and menacing, and he grit his teeth.
"Where did you hear that name?!" he demanded to know, his voice rising with intensity.
Clancy quivered, and she quickly regretted not trusting James earlier. When she didn't answer, Parker took three long strides until he was directly in front of her. He grabbed her violently by the elbows and hauled her to her feet. He shook her, desperate for a response and this time he shouted. "Answer me!"
His booming voice caused her to cry louder. She had seen him angry before, if only slightly, and she knew he was easily set off. But she had never seen him this angry. Suddenly she knew she had made the wrong decision. But how could she give James away to him by telling him? She couldn't do that.
She bit her lip, forcing her mouth to stay shut even as fear told her to open it and to speak. He shook her again, her feet dangling from the ground, and she moaned in protest.
"I said answer me, Clancy!!" he demanded, and he dropped her, releasing her quickly.
She landed flat on her feet, but it was when she saw him raise his hand to her did she give up her source. "J-James!" she blurted out before he had the chance to strike her. She said again, "James."
"Potter," hissed Parker as he lowered his hand. "I should have known! When did you speak to him?"
"T-Today," she answered, terrified of him.
"What did he tell you?!"
"H-He told me who you really are," she answered between her cries. She would tell him what he wanted for her own sake, but she wouldn't tell him that a piece of him was living inside James. She couldn't do that to James. "He told me, and I didn't believe him. I didn't want to believe him, Nolan, because...It's not true. Please, tell me."
She requested this from him, but she knew she wouldn't hear it, and she had already received her verification. She was standing before Parker Namken. She had fallen in love with Parker Namken. A demented, thought-dead killer.
The anger was still evident in Parker, but when he finally stopped to observe Clancy's actions and emotions, he felt it diminish. Instead, he felt sad and guilty. The very things he had hoped not to feel when Clancy knew the truth. He didn't know what to say, but he felt his shoulders slacken as his anger faded and he grew sad.
"You weren't supposed to find out this way," he told her honestly. "Really, I was going to tell you. Today even, but I got...held up..."
"Held up with what?!" she demanded to know. She was surprised that this was her question, out of all the possible questions. But something inside her told her it had to do with James' wounded brother. As that thought crossed her mind, she became fearful for what the answer would be. Did she really want to hear it?
"You want the truth?" he asked, for he knew he could lose her forever with the truth. He wouldn't let her escape from him, though. He had a plan, and she was coming with him. No matter if she wanted to or not. So it didn't matter if she had the truth or not; he would tell it to her if that's what she wanted.
"Yes," she answered, her voice shaking.
"Fine," he said sternly, and before he spoke again, he turned away from her. He left the living room and went into their bedroom. Clancy followed on his heels, as Parker had anticipated, and he pulled out a bag from her closet and gave his wand a wave so her clothes began to stuff themselves into the bag. "I was making preparations. For you and my mother."
"What sort of preparations?" she asked uneasily, unsure of why he was packing her things up into a bag, but she was too scared to question him or demand him to stop.
"Living preparations. We're leaving," he said.
"What?" she gasped. "No!"
She was ready to defy him then. It didn't matter if she loved him or not. He was a killer, and she knew it. She couldn't trust him no matter how badly her heart still wished she could, but she didn't know what he would do to her. Would he use her? Would he hurt her? She had never believed he ever would, but she had watched him raise a hand to strike her, and who knew? Maybe he was planning on using as a means to get to James Potter, so maybe she truly meant nothing to him at all. She couldn't go with him.
That was when she bolted. She ran out of the bedroom and into the living room. She was headed for the door, but she was aware of Parker behind her. He was shouting for her to come back, saying she wouldn't get away with it, and of course it was of no use. He was taller than she was and far faster; he reached her in a matter of seconds and he snatched her up into his arms, holding her small form tight to his long and broad one.
She kicked, desperate to get away from him. "No! Let me go, Nolan! Please let me go!"
"No!" he argued, and he carried her with ease back to their bedroom where her things were being packed up. "I'm sorry, Clancy, but I can't do that. That's not part of the plan."
"Nolan, no! Please!" she beat at his chest as he carried her, but Parker refused to budge.
"And you can call me Parker now," he said dully.
He dropped her onto her bed. She plopped down onto it in surprise, her long, black hair a distorted mess about her face from being carried, and before she could comprehend what had happened, he had pulled her wand from her pocket. He shoved it into one of his own pockets for safe keeping. When he saw her bewildered glance, he rolled his shoulders. "Sorry, Clancy. You brought it upon yourself. I was hoping you'd want to come with me, but now that I know you'll be a flight risk, I guess I'll have to make necessary precautions."
Parker watched her for a moment longer, and he could tell she was trying to apparate, but he gave her a sympathetic smile. "Sorry, baby. I put up those charms before I even walked in the door."
Clancy's shoulders fell in defeat. She watched as the last of her things were crammed into her bag, and then Parker shrank it, dropping the bag into the pocket of his jeans. He reached out a hand to her, and he watched Clancy eye it in disgust.
"Come on, baby," he groaned impatiently. "Do I have to carry you again or will you be a big girl and cooperate?"
She seemed to be in pain when she finally took his hand, and for that Parker hated himself, but he knew this was necessary. He should have known all along this was how it would be. With her hand in his, he pulled her to her feet. She reluctantly and yet obediently followed behind him as he pulled her through the flat and out the front door. As soon as they were outside, she was aware of the fact that Parker was apparating them out of there, for the familiar sensation in the pit of her stomach quickly arose.
They arrived on the porch of a large house. She tried to take in the appearance of it, but Parker was already tugging her inside after muttering some sort of incantation that she didn't quite catch against the door. It opened with a click, and he pulled her in. She looked about the interior of the house. The walls were a peaceful tan color, and the floor was of dark wood. It was large, but homey in a way that strangely made her wildly unease. What was this place? Was this his childhood home? Or somewhere else? His headquarters for his evil doings? There were a few people in the living room before them, lounging around and having a good time while in conversation. Some looked their way upon their entrance, but others minded their own business.
One man rose from his spot on the couch, and he approached Parker. He nodded in greeting, and Parker only said to him as they passed, Be ready to do your part this evening.
The man nodded as they passed by, and Parker continued to drag her by the wrist through the house.
Once again, she tried to look about the place, but Parker was quick and cognizant to allow her as little time as possible to take in her surroundings. It was as if he didn't want her to see any of it, which made her even more uneasy.
The majority of the house was off to the left where there was a large grand staircase, and she assumed they were headed for that direction, but that wasn't the case. He yanked her down a long hallway off to the right, clearly more secluded quarters, where he then pulled her up a long staircase. At the top, another hallway exposed itself, but there were only two doors in the entire hallway.
She didn't like this. She didn't like this at all. Why were they in the secluded part of the house? Why here? What was he going to do with her? She started trying to fight him again, and she tugged desperately on her wrist, trying to free herself from him. Her fighting was to no avail though; Parker only dragged her more violently down the hall.
"Nolan!" she begged. His false name was still embedded into her mind, and so it was simply nature to call him by it. Calling him Parker would require time for her. "Nolan, please! Let me go!"
"No," he disagreed. "Sorry, I can't."
Why not?!" she demanded to know.
He whipped around then, his face alive with anger. "Because I don't trust you to not go running to James Potter's side!
She continued to beg, saying anything to save her own skin. "I wouldn't! Please, Nolan, I wou - "
"Oh, save it, Clancy!" he snarled. "I know you slept with him! I know you have feelings for him!"
She gasped in disbelief. How did he know that?
"I know you did," he said again. "I know you took him into your bed. I know you've been intimate with the man I hate most in this world! I was watching you before you met me. So I know, Clancy, I know."
Watching her before they met? So had he really planned their meeting?
They reached one of the doors, and he opened it. Clancy got a look inside before he said or did anything else. It was a bedroom, plain and simple, but what she noticed first was how there were no windows.
And then she knew what he was going to do. He was going to lock her up.
He pulled the shrunken bag out of his pocket, returned it to its normal size, and tossed it onto the large bed in the middle of the room.
She tugged on her wrist again. "Let me go, Nolan!"
"Save it," he breathed coolly, and he violently shoved her inside. "Desperate times call for desperate measures."
And then he slammed the door on her. He gave a wave of his wand, and he heard the sound of the door locking. After the definitive click, he could hear and feel Clancy's panic. She began to beat at the door from the other side, screaming her demands to let her go. Surprisingly saddened by what he had to do, Parker fell against the locked door and pressed his forehead to the warm wood. He ignored the fact that his head would shake with each pounding Clancy was giving the door on the other side.
"I'm sorry, Clancy," he whispered genuinely, even though he knew she couldn't hear. "I was supposed to get to you before him. We were supposed to be in this together."