— Reverse Death AU
"By the wishes of the crown, we gather here to end a sinful soul. Daniel Ortiz, has been convicted on counts of treason to the crown, and the church," Don Ambrogio Spinola spoke allowed.
Daniel had faced death before, but not like this, not with a noose around his neck. Not for love, nor had he ever walked in knowing for sure what was going to happen. It seemed, today, that God wasn't his only judge. On the outside, he was a piece of steel, unapologetic for his deeds. Yet internally he was shaking. Daniel's attention was pulled back as Ambrogio spoke again to ask, "Daniel Ortiz, do you have any last words?"
He paused, looking at the crowd for moment, but was quick to close his eyes to them. Daniel didn't want to see who was there, didn't want to see Amilia or Lance as he stood on the gallows. He knew his death would not go lightly, but it was the only way to grant their freedom for collective sins.
His friends would show up with the loyalty he had expected from them. Ambrogio's haste made it hard for Amilia and Lance to find the right moment to act. Lance silently got rid of as many guards as he could, as Amilia moved through the crowd getting as close as she dared.
Daniel had asked them to trust him, let him go, but his friends had trouble with that request. It was a shame he couldn't have put up a fight, or made a speech, anything to gain them more time. But there was no point. A price had to be paid to end the Knight's resentment.
He fell as Amilia called his name, and she shoved everyone out of the way. Leaving them appalled by the rashness of this small woman. She watched his boots just hang there. "Okay dear, take me with you," she said softly, not knowing what to do without him, and fell into a heap on the ground.
A knight that was guarding the front moved towards Amilia, but someone shoved him out of the way. A move that normally would have spilled more blood, if his hand wasn't out carefully trying to separate them. "Step away from her," Lance said, "You've had your sacrificial lamb."
Amilia took it all in as the pieces of her broken heart crystallized into a hate, not wild and rash, but vengeful and determined. Lance took her hands and pulled her back up to her feet. He had lost his best friend, he sure as hell wasn't going to leave her to the wolves.
She looked up to the Don and vowed, "I will kill you."
A comment that was much to Ambrogio's amusement. He laughed. "A girl such as you? Take me down? I think not."
Lance urged her to leave, but she refused to move again as the threats continued. "I will make you pay. You have no idea what fury you have unleashed," she swore.
"There is nothing here for you anymore," Lance insisted, cutting into her enough to pay attention, "Let's go. I will not see two of my friends sent to the gallows today."
Amilia weakly nodded, and they fled before the Don went back on the deal he made with Daniel. They continued to run far past what was needed, and ended up at the edge of town, too tired to continue with the weight of their broken hearts.
"This is your fault," she said grabbing Lance's tunic. "You are a thief! I thought you were to protect your own!" Her tone was hysteric as she beat on his chest with closed fists.
"I'm sorry this happened," Lance said distantly. His words did nothing for her as she continued to pound on his chest. "Amilia!" he yelled, catching her hands and surprising her with his sudden movement. "You need to stop. I'm hurting too, and trying to be here for you, but if you yell at me anymore I'm going to break as well."
Amilia ripped her hands away, stumbling backward as he didn't try to hold on at all. She looked over at him, filled with hate for anyone she looked upon. But it didn't last as she saw Lance's expression, suddenly understanding each better than she thought they ever would.
Lance waited a second before wrapping his arms around her. "He was the best part of my life too," he said, sounding like he was no longer able to hold back tears. "He did it so we could be safe. You have to hold onto that."
"There," Owen said, as he pulled off his headset, "I'm dead. Nothing can hurt me anymore."
Charlie's mouth opened, but couldn't think of a single decent thing to say. "Yeah man, you certainly made a choice there."
"Could you have said anything more middle-of-the-road?" Owen asked.
"I could try."
"Please don't," Owen said, as he got up. "There were two choices. The Knights would had made someone pay, and I refuse to watch either of them get hurt. So, self-sacrifice."
Charlie nodded slowly. They understood the choice, but actually going through with it was something else completely. Charlie exhaled, and decided to try again. "How about this; you are a really good friend. Fictional or otherwise."
"You flatter me."
"Eh," Charlie said seriously before finally cracking a smile.
The sly humor made Owen laugh and feel a lot better about everything. He refused to let it show that losing Daniel was a big deal, and enjoyed the help of hiding his true feelings under a seven layer dip of snark. "Ready to meet up with Emily?"
"Absolutely," Charlie said, as they stood up as well. "I low key love pretending our real lives are the lost seasons of Friends. But you know, with added diversity."
The woman they expected to meet was not the one that approached Charlie as they waited for Owen to come back from ordering.
"Can I get you a drink?" she asked, gesturing to the empty table besides Charlie's book.
"No, thank you," Charlie said, and looked down to read. It was all for show. This sort of thing was rare, but it happened enough that any stranger was always on their preferred avoid list.
"Can I sit down?" she pressed further.
"No." Charlie was louder this time because being proper wasn't working.
"I'm just trying to be nice. Won't you even give me a shot? I just want to get you coffee and talk. And we are literally at a coffee shop already."
Charlie closed their book. They really didn't want to be mean to the poor girl. She likely got her fair share of bullshit, but explaining the whole gender thing was not on their to-do list today. Among other Queer 101 vocab lessons. They just wanted to stop talking before she said the wrong pronoun and ruined the whole day with that bullshit.
"Excuse me," a new stranger—no, someone they knew—said as they stepped around into Charlie's view. "That's my seat," Owen said diplomatically.
The woman moved away with hesitation, and Owen confidently took the seat despite the two drinks in his hands. "Sorry babe," Owen said, "The line wasn't actually that bad so I just waited until our drinks were ready."
"That's okay..." Charlie continued to stare, as the confusion seemed to touch everyone except Owen. Their eyes slowly moved towards the woman, and Owen seemed to notice her again.
With both sets of eyes on her now, the woman laughed nervously and walked away without another word. Owen slid Charlie's drink over hoping the caffeine would reboot his friend.
"Did you just pretend to be my boyfriend to save me from awkwardness?" Charlie asked, ignoring literally everything else.
"Yeahh," Owen stretched out the word. "I hope I came off as believable."
"Almost too much so."
Owen smiled. "I know I paid for your coffee, but Charlie..."
"Yeah?" they said hesitatingly.
"We need to break up. I don't think I'm your type."
Charlie laughed. If they had dared take a drink before this, they might have had a spit take now. "Owen..." They felt speechless like earlier today and was left to wonder again. "Is there anything you won't do for your friends?"
He exhaled roughly. More than the situation called for and hinted back to events with Daniel. "I hope I never have to find out for real."
YOU ARE READING
Bone Diggers (Paperback out now!)Science Fiction
When everyone IRL lies, the only person you can trust is an NPC. Dirty little secrets can't be hidden behind player avatars, because Bone Diggers like Owen expose the lives behind the code. When his two worlds blur, he must decide which is more impo...