Fifty-Three - Ira

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Standing on the top of the stairs, my hand hovering over the switch for the dazzling chandelier, I heard a sigh. It was late and even Linkin had gone to bed, and I thought that someone had just forgotten to turn the light off. "You okay?" I asked when I saw Stuart running a hand through his brown hair before rubbing his eyes behind his glasses.

He was surprised to see me. He put the pieces of paper that he was holding down on the coffee table and smiled despite the exhaustion written all over his face. Stuart had been tasked with the biggest responsibility out of us all - to remember as much as he could about what happened on Dell Island so we could come up with a workable plan of attack. "I just wish I had my old computer where I kept all the files or Linkin's memory."

"What have you got so far?" Squinting against the light, I took a seat next to him and peered at what he'd written on the pages. The brightness of the living room was making my small migraine worse.

"Just a few useless lists after a week of thinking." He retrieved them for me so I could read better. "Names - most of them were probably aliases. Places where I was allowed to go, lab material, people in the lab who were referred to me for therapy."

I looked at Stuart's barely legible handwriting, and Dell Island started to piece itself together around me. I saw the cabanas, the glimpses of water behind the trees, the cold fluorescent lights at the small hospital and in the windowless labs underneath. There were some names that I could put to faces in my memory: Liana Atteberry, Desmond Atteberry, Nita Strand, Celestia Katona, Jaysen Dukas. I sighed and rubbed my forehead. "You still have information."

"But none of it's particularly useful," Stuart replied. "I think I'm just realizing how much I didn't know about them."

"Really?" I shuffled the pieces of paper back and forth in nervousness until Stuart took them back.

"I was a fresh graduate looking for a good job," Stuart explained. "My supervisor told me there was an opening for a remote hospital for patients of severe trauma, and told me I'd be good for the job. He passed on my application and I got the contract in a couple of days. It was so damn long, that document. Nondisclosure agreements everywhere. I eventually gave up reading it in detail and just focused on the way-too-generous salary and signed the contract. I only ever knew that I was going to work at Dell Island Hospital, under Liana Atteberry. When I got there, everything felt wrong. I didn't dare ask after the rules of the island were read to me."

"We can start with your supervisor?" I suggested, looking down and closing my eyes and hoping that Stuart wouldn't notice. The migraine was the reason that I was awake in the first place, and being awake certainly wasn't helping.

"Linkin already tried looking him up. No luck..." He trailed off. "Ira, what's the matter?"

"It's nothing serious." I blinked a few times before facing his concerned green eyes. "Must be from shooting at the docks in the dark, and turning on the light so Thierry can tell me what I did wrong."

Stuart put down his loose pages. "Have you been sleeping okay? Bad sleep makes your eyes strain more." He stopped when I shook my head. "Why are you still awake, Ira?"

"Because of a fucking migraine." I laughed, and to my surprise, so did Stuart. He stood up and wandered into the kitchen, stretching his arms as he walked. Coming back with a cold pack, he pressed it against my forehead and made sure that it wouldn't slip before he let go.

"That should help a bit," Stuart said. "I know you really want to get back at all of them, but take it easy, even with your eagle eyes."

I nodded and closed my eyes. "Have you been feeling a little safer here?"

"It's not been too bad," he replied, and he was telling the truth - his tone had lost the touch of nervousness. Stuart chuckled quietly. "Nowhere is really safe in this world, I get that, but it's not so terrifying anymore. You being back has helped me see that."

"You give me too much credit." My hand hesitantly drifted towards Stuart, which he took in a warm clasp. Blood rushed to my face but I smiled, relaxing into our connection. I cleared my throat after a moment's pause.

"No, you remind me that we all have so much strength," Stuart said before I could elaborate on how he was giving me too much credit. "Anything can happen, Ira, and you'd make it out every time."

"That makes me a human cockroach, eh?" I said with a grin. The pain behind my skull was almost gone, and laughing made the cold pack fall off my face. I grimaced and blinked the coolness away from my eyes.

"That's gross," Stuart said, laughing with me. "How will we ever get you to take a compliment, Ira?"

"By giving me more," I joked, making sure to work both cheeks in my smile.

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