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He was used to overhearing conversations between other tenants in the building. While the walls were thicker than the newer built constructions, since the summer heat had passed they had moved toward a trend of leaving the windows open to help air out their apartments and offer some natural cooling in lieu of the nonexistent air conditioning. The usual conversations he overheard came from Daniel’s apartment, since their windows faced the same small inner courtyard in the middle of the building’s Y-shaped structure. Every once in a while he could hear Lenore’s animated rants to Davidson on the roof when she got worked up after a fight with Sebastian, and this was becoming the trend for the sounds he could hear from outside his window.

She had definitely seemed on edge lately, and the thought that nagged him was that it had to do with suspicions towards Hayley.

When he heard Hayley’s name drift through the open window, he thought for a moment his head was playing tricks on him. It had been doing that more and more frequently as of late. He would wake from wherever he had fallen asleep - sometimes the bed, sometimes the couch, but most of the time on the floor in front of the closet - and see her laying there with him. Then he would shake his head and his brain would right itself. The mirage would disappear, and the despair would catch him with as much force as it had that first night.

The trail of conversation did not end, however, and his gut twisted. He couldn’t make out all the words by any means, and he could only hear Lenore’s side of the conversation, but with every passing second his uneasiness grew. Strange, weeks, William… these words carried down from the roof. Nathan scrambled to the window to see if he could make out more of what she said, but the sounds from the street below mixed with the sounds from up above creating a jumble of mostly incomprehensible noises.

“So tell them,” he heard just as he was about to give up again, and this time the voice was masculine. Undoubtedly Davidson’s. His stomach plummeted as the likely meaning of the words sunk into place. That little bitch just couldn’t keep her mouth shut. He paced back and forth across the living area a few times, rubbing his hand vigorously against his forehead while he thought.

She was going to tell William. William would send Davidson or Anna to their door. He held no doubt in his mind that it would play out that way. It was only a question of timing now, and time was not something that had been on his side as of late. There wasn’t anywhere he could go; leaving the building had become next to impossible since they boarded up the ground floor, floor to ceiling, one end of the building to the other. Even if he could get out of the building, it would open up a major weakness to their fortress, and he didn’t want to put all the others at risk. Besides, he had no hope of getting Hayley out of the building.

His only option was to stay, and it was hardly an option at all. He crossed to the door and double checked the lock and the deadbolt. Pacing back through the living room, he grabbed a dining room chair. As his legs carried him across the floor again, he jammed the chair back up under the door handle. It wouldn’t hold them off much longer than the locks would - Daniel could pick practically any lock, and he wouldn’t be surprised if Anna could kick down the door with even the smallest amount of adrenaline pumping through her wicked veins - but it was a start.

What to do, what to do. He was too exhausted to formulate a real plan, and even if he had had the necessary amount of sleep, he doubted the ideas would come. He had sat across from the closet, listening to the cries that turned to protests and then groans. He had spent hours upon hours, day in and day out trying to come up with a solution that wouldn’t kill him. He had spent two weeks now, and still he had nothing. He had failed her many times in their on and off again romance, but this was his biggest letdown by far. They wouldn’t be able to come back from this one, and he wouldn’t be able to live with himself if he couldn’t figure out a way to help her.

His eyes caught the gleaming metal on the end table near the couch. It wasn’t a solution for either her or him. It had sat there, glaring him down for days now, but he hadn’t been able to muster the strength to pick it up. Now, he snatched it up almost savagely. It wasn’t the answer for them, but it could buy them leverage, or at the very least some time.

He hadn’t practiced in ages, but as soon as his fingers wrapped around the familiar metal, he felt stronger. More in control. Less like a caged animal, more like a caged fighter. He checked the magazine to make sure he had at least a few rounds left to negotiate with. He checked the safety and left it in place for the timing being, but his thumb rested on the tiny switch. It would only take him a second to engage the weapon, and it would take them longer than that to get through the front door.

His pacing stopped in the hallway by the front door, and he sank down in his usual spot. He hadn’t heard noises from inside the closet for a day or two, but he didn’t tempt faith by removing the barricade. Not until he could be sure. Not until it was safe.

The gun felt cool against his knee as he supported his arm on bent leg. His eyes stared straight ahead, and he found himself doing something he hadn’t done in years. He closed his eyes, and he offered up a prayer. The world had been cruel to him, especially as of late, and he found it more difficult than ever to believe in a God or a savior or any kind of supreme being. But his options were few and far between, and he felt like he owed it to Hayley to offer up a prayer for her sake.

Dear Father, I ask you for strength. I ask you for wisdom and for mercy. I ask you for love and forgiveness. I ask you for the safety of my Hayley, for she has the true heart, the pure soul. She belongs in heaven, but not yet. They could send him to hell if they wanted, but he wouldn’t go down with a white flag waving as they kicked down his front door. He had been a selfish coward for a lot of his life, but he didn’t enter the world that way and he sure as hell wasn’t going to leave it like that either.

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