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Chapter 8 : The Sight of the Earth
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Author's Note Goodness, I'm so, so terribly sorry you've all had to wait for this for so long! Please forgive me. I feel awful. In any case, there's a lot happening in this chapter so I hope you'll enjoy it. As ever, I'd love to hear your thoughts on the chapter so if you would care to review, I'd really appreciate it! Thank you! XOXO, Kalina
Daniel Craig as Maxwell Blackthorn
Hugh Dancy as Hugo Weasley
Rachel Weisz as Rahima Saïd
Freddie Stroma as Scott
Jack Davenport as Kurt van Haufsen
Oliver Martinez as the other thug
The Sight of the Earth
The next morning dawned deceptively bright. Grace yawned, stretching her limbs from head to toe, and languorously lay on her sleeping mat. Black's sandy blonde head was not far away from her. She rolled to her left and noticed Hugo's mat was empty. Figuring he must be eating breakfast, she rose and running a small hand through her sable locks, padded towards the kitchen. Indeed, it was there she saw him, clad in shorts and sandals, stirring a pan of scrambled eggs on the kitchen stove.
"Good morning," Grace announced tiredly, walking over towards him. She wrapped her arms around his torso in a brief hug and turned to the table. The places had already been laid out, though Hugo and Grace both knew what a lazy sleeper Black happened to be. Hugo grunted in response to her greeting and whisked the pan off of the red-hot stove.
"It's ready. Get dressed and come eat."
Grace pulled her tongue out at him in defiance. "I'll get dressed when I want to, Hugo. Market's in the afternoon anyways, and Rasheed can most definitely wait. I'm not particularly anxious to see him, either."
"No, I don't suppose you are," he replied, setting the pan on the table. Grace pulled back a chair and sat down, heaping eggs onto her plate. Hugo sat down across from her and crossed his fingers, his head dropping down and sighing heavily.
"What the fuck do you think he can do, Hugo?" Grace asked, mouth half-full. "Not much, obviously, but because you and Black are such dogs about everything, you seem to think I need protection at every corner. Remind yourself of who I am."
Hugo glared at her, brown curl falling atop his forehead. "How could I forget? Tom used to say you were hell on legs. Goddamn Lawless legacy."
Grace rose, having finished her meal. She walked over to the sink and scraped the remnants off of her plate, back stiff and chin proud. "That's right," she said slowly. "And what will the Underground think if a Lawless is 'protected', right?"
Hugo sighed and ran a hand over his face. "Less of you."
"Precisely. So, do I really need to eat all my vegetables and be told bedtime stories at night? No, of course not. And the sooner you and Maxwell both learn that, the better off we'll all be. Honestly, half the time I wonder what the fuck I'm doing with the both of you. It's unhealthy for me, it's unhealthy for you, and fuck knows we're all going to end up loonies after this."
"Supposing we aren't already," her companion drawled. "Still, it's better to be safe than sorry."
Grace glared at him. "If we're going to trade maxims, then I'll say nothing risked is nothing gained." A large clatter sounded as she dropped the porcelain plate into the sink. Hugo growled in annoyance, but Grace brushed him off, knowing full well she was right, and he knew it. The two of them had shared enough time together for simple quarrels to set in, but Grace never deigned back down. She and Hugo both knew that of the two of them, she was substantially more powerful, something which had always irked the young Weasley. Grace was weaker, perhaps, in knowledge, which Hugo used as solace to soothe his smarting wounds.
Hugo threw his hands up in defeat. "I concede the blow. As a Lawless, you are, as ever, far superior to my meager Weasley self."
Grace laughed shortly. "Don't be ridiculous. Your father is a world-renowned war hero. Corrupt, perhaps, but a hero nonetheless. It speaks for your bravery."
"Were I anything like him and his so-called courage, maybe I'd be more of a man."
"That, you can't argue with, Grace."
The two of them whirled around as Black stumbled into the kitchen, dragging the back of his hand across his eyes. Ever the jealous sleeper, he despised being woken up by any noise or argument. But living with Grace had accustomed him to loud noises and constant upheaval.
Hugo looked sour. "Always a pleasure, Max."
Black nodded to him. "Weasley. Any of those eggs left for me?"
Grace handed him the platter and flashed him a crooked grin. "Sure, dig in. Sweet dreams last night, Sleeping Beauty?" Black mumbled an incoherent reply around his food and moved towards the squalid living room, sitting back on the ruined sofa and kicking up his feet. Wordlessly Grace and Hugo followed him, Grace choosing to sit down on the least dirty part of the carpet and Hugo preferring to stand.
"What's your plan, Grace?" Black asked, fixing upon her his sharp stare. Grace picked at one of the filaments in the carpet.
"What do you mean? How am I going to tell Rasheed?" She shrugged. "I figured just 'No' would do the trick, don't you?"
With a bang Black set his plate down on the coffee table, threatening to split the china in half. "No, I fuck well don't!" he exclaimed incredulously. "For all your street smarts, when it comes to tact, you're really the fucking novice."
Grace stared blankly at him, then turned to face Hugo, who was nodding his agreement. Black stood up and moved behind the sofa, one hand gripping the edge with white knuckles.
"Grace," he started. "Don't take al Hariq for granted. He's violent - even I can say that. You'll have absolutely no fucking idea what he's going to pull for your little town meeting. You don't know who he'll bring and who he'll try to cover for. We still don't know who his higher up happens to be. You're going in blind."
She glared at him. "Then what, O mighty one, do you propose I do?"
Black rubbed one hand along his jaw. "Send a messenger. Or better yet, leave a message, and don't risk any lives. Least of all your own, Lawless."
Grace frowned. "I already said I'm going with Rahima, because you - need I really remind you? - you, insisted. Fuck, Black. I'm not some child you put into daycare while you go save the world just so that your ego isn't quite so bruised. Fine, I'll be careful. I believe I've already stated that. But fuck you for your meddling, you bastard."
The day passed uneventfully for the three of them, waiting until dusky afternoon for Rahima to appear from her brother's home and for the market to wind down. While Grace would have preferred the security of a crowd - for all her protests she knew that Black was right to take precautions -, she was relieved enough to be able to go before nightfall itself.
As the two women walked down the dusty road towards the market, little conversation was made. Both were equally aware of what exactly was happening, and though Grace tried to lighten the mood with some ill-fated jokes, they were unmet. The tents were closing down - here a carpet merchant was rolling up his wares, here a butcher was placing his now not-quite-so-fresh meat into a freezer. Grace's eyes roved over them all, searching for the amiable fruit seller and his pomegranate display. When at last she found him, she clutched Rahima's hand and rushed over, waiting expectantly for Rasheed to appear. But Black's words thundered in her head, and a sudden fear gripped her. Grace turned to Rahima.
"Is it wise," she began, wetting her lips, "to wait to meet Rasheed face-to-face?"
Rahima turned her intense brown gaze upon the younger woman. "Is he honorable?"
Her fears confirmed, Grace went to face the fruit seller. He was of the obstinate kind, a rare breed of man who would wait until the last customer had passed through the market to close down. He had not yet put away his display, and Grace ran her hands over the pomegranates. Rapidly, she selected twelve ripe bananas and arranged them over the leathery fruits, much to the fruit seller's dismay. With a glare she shushed him, while Rahima waited. Once Grace was finished, she stepped back to appraise what she had done. The bananas stood out in stark contrast to the fruits, spelling out, in no uncertain terms, the word "No".
Rasheed would not be pleased.
Without a word Grace pulled away from the fruit seller, thanked him, and walked away, grabbing Rahima's hand for comfort. She had not anticipated the sun to sink so fast, but it had, and Grace, despite her exterior, was unsettled. It was not a very intelligent idea for two women to be walking about Cairo in the open air, especially at night, and Grace found herself hurrying. With no degree of surprise she found that Rahima was clenching her hand with the same degree of intensity.
"This was foolish," Rahima remarked, and Grace could not agree more. For Rahima's sake, however, she kept a level head.
"Come on, Rahima! What could happen? Dark night, sure, but we've been here before, right?" She flashed the other woman a grin she did not feel and trotted on. At a sign she did not recognize, Grace paused.
"Have you been this way before?" she asked blithely, and watched with dismay as Rahima shook her full head of curls. "You're sure?"
"Absolutely. Haven't you, Grace?" Grace did not imagine it. There was a tremor to Rahima's voice which had not been there earlier in the afternoon. Eagerly she looked to the horizon for a sign of the sun, but it had by now been completely swallowed up. The two women swathed in darkness save for the lamppost they were near to, they held each other's hands for comfort, not knowing which way they might go.
A man stepped out from the shadows, followed by two more. Grace's eyes narrowed, studying them all. The one leading them - he was small and walked with a swagger unlike any she had ever seen.
"What do you want?" she barked, her stance immediately defensive. Luminance from the lamppost streamed onto the first man's face and Grace remarked with surprise that he was a boy. She almost laughed, were it not for the two other men, who, judging by their size, were very much full-grown. As they came into the light, one of their faces jolted in Grace's memory. Kurt van Haufsen.
Of course, Grace thought bitterly. Rasheed would have never omitted such a precaution. She dropped Rahima's hand and met the boy's stare.
"You the Lawless girl?" he asked. Anger flashing in her eyes, Grace nodded yes.
"We'd like that urn of yours," he stated matter-of-factly. Rasheed. Of course. Grace should have known. Her mouth pulled into a derisive frown, she opened her mouth to speak.
"Tell your boss I don't deal with kids, and that I'm not giving up the fucking vase."
She had intended to be brutal and intimidating. But to her surprise, a smirk suddenly crawled across the boy's face, reminiscent of someone, something ...
She had not the time to think. The boy had pounced, his two followers leaping onto Rahima while he took on Grace. Taken by surprise, Grace dropped and rolled on the asphalt as the boy aimed kicks at her stomach, her throat, her head. Jumping up to her feet again, she edged backwards as he approached, evidently unfazed. In his hand was a single silver knife. Grace pulled out her own pocketknife, cursing herself again and again for not having brought more protection. Had she brought Black, it would have easily been dealt with -
A scream cut across her thoughts, and the boy craned his neck back to see. Acting fast, Grace ran towards him, burrowing her own knife in his abdomen and ripping up. She wouldn't have killed him, but she hadn't the time to think. His own bellow of pain had sent his two bodyguards hurtling towards her but as she dodged them and rushed past she saw Rahima on the ground, a pool of blood around her head and suddenly she knew, with alarming clarity, that her friend, her steadfast healer, had died. There was no time to mourn. Grace ran on, knowing one of the two men would be after her. Air burning through her lungs, pain jolting through her back and stomach, she dashed into the night, desperate for life, desperate to get away from whatever hell had been unleashed.
It wasn't until she saw that she had arrived home that she realized the extent of the danger they were all in. Barreling through the door, she rushed towards Black's room. He was lying on his mat, asleep, one arm thrown over his eyes. Angered, exasperated, and afraid, she shook him awake.
"Wake up! Black, wake up!" she hissed, grabbing him by his shoulders. Blearily he opened his eyes and stared up at her. With a sigh of disgust she pushed him away and grabbed the nearest clothes she could find. "Here. Take them. Get up. Start packing."
"Packing? Wha-?" he asked her. Grace turned to face him, voice poisonous.
"Yes. Packing. Because you were fucking right. Because Rahima is dead and we need to get the fuck out of this country. So get ready. I'll tell Hugo. He can't leave. But you and I must go."
Without another word she fled the room, nerves on fire, and ran downstairs into Hugo's laboratory. Almost in tears as she reached him, her sable hair blowing in her eyes, she clenched his hands fast, the pain of Rahima's death only just now hitting her.
"We're leaving," Grace told him, gasping for breath. "Black and I. We've got to move. You - you have to stay. We need an ally here. Someone who can keep an eye on things. Who better than you, Hugo? Who else has the pawn shop and - Merlin knows - a life here, above all things! Fuck it, Hugo. Stay! Stay!"
Hugo watched her in silence as she collapsed into a chair, his hand still holding hers. As she finished, he brushed a strand of her hair away from her face. "You know I would go if you asked me to, Grace," he told her. His voice was low. "As it is, however, I see the sense in staying. I can drive you to the hangar tonight. Have you packed?"
Grace's eyes went wide. "The hangar? Hugo, the hangar? A fucking copter can't get us to England!"
"England!" Hugo exploded. "You've got less sense than a spoiled cat, Grace! England! The place is crawling with Aurors out for your skin - why the fuck do you want to go to England?!"
"I know it best," she informed him. "I don't speak French or Italian or Spanish. England is where I'm headed. The copter can't take us there - we'd have to stop somewhere else. No, Black and I are taking the red-eye to London."
Hugo sighed. "I suppose you know best."
"Most often I don't," Grace replied frankly. "But this time, I do."
They made their way to the airport with little time to spare. Pulling up by the curb in the rusty old car - a true misfit among cleaner, more sophisticated vehicles -, Hugo parked the pathetic old thing. Grace and Black both jumped out. The packing had not taken long - luckily, Black's mother had groomed him well enough in household ways that he knew how to spell a mountain of unfolded clothes into a suitcase or two. Pulling her own dark and ragged suitcase from the trunk of the car, Grace turned to face the entrance. The night's chill did her no good. The airport was nearly empty, save for a few odd couples rushing to catch their flights. With a sorry sigh, Grace turned to face Hugo, Black already having gone inside to purchase tickets from the amenable flight attendant.
"So this is goodbye," she murmured, struck at how sad the situation now appeared.
Hugo attempted to crack a smile. "So it is."
And without warning, and with Grace's brown eyes wide and staring at him, he leaned his face in and kissed her mouth, softly at first, then with a gentle force she hadn't known he had. Slowly her arms circled around his head and Grace kissed him back. There were only so many proper goodbyes.
They pulled apart. Neither one spoke. Instead, Hugo touched her jaw, set down the bag he had been carrying, and without a word, entered the car and pulled away into the night. Shaking her head at her own naiveté, Grace hitched the bag containing the vase - skillfully disguised by Black - around her shoulder and pulled her suitcase behind her, jogging to join Black.
"Well?" she asked.
"Two first-class tickets for Mr. and Mrs. Leiter," Black announced. His gaze broke past her towards the door. "Did Hugo leave already?"
Grace nodded. "Yes. He says goodbye."
"I'll miss that kid," Black mumbled. "Always a goddamn do-gooder, though." Quickly he slung an arm around Grace's shoulders. "Come on, we'll be late."
They arrived at the gate with only a few minutes left until boarding closed. Dashing through the tunnel, Grace wondered at the chaos her life had become. True, it was the life she'd been born into, but she had never expected things to become so ... cruel. The world was growing darker by the second. As she reached her seat - thank God Black was a prime bullshitter -, she looked out of the window at the large, dusty expanse outside. She'd lived in Egypt for the great majority of her life. It was odd to say goodbye. Hugo's kiss flashed briefly in her memory. She hadn't relished it. But she had been grateful. Grace knew she longed for peace sometimes.
Black's hand found its way to hers and squeezed it tight. She flashed him a smile and set her head back on the cushion. She was leaving Egypt for England, the black magic Underworld for so-called sophistication. But she'd be damned if she'd sit in a Jane Austen type society while goats with pink satin ribbons walked around her. Grace was a creature of adrenaline.
And so it was adrenaline she sought.
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