Skin
gym.
    That day when I
was a kid in the city, I felt the things beneath the surface.
Sanctuary was one of them. A blank building, an elite club full of
freaks and something else too, this arena fighting thing that Cato
told me about. Sveta had picked me like a prize cock in an
underground fighting ring and was disguising it as a day job. She
knew about my mother’s career and likely hoped this apple hadn’t
fallen far from the professional fighting tree.
    Sveta was
talking to a woman who’s entire body was covered in snow white hair
that made her look like a bizarrely sexy Yeti. She was one of a
large group who was starting to fill the place. What possible
effect could that kind of all over fur give a person if it wasn’t
just for aesthetics? It wasn’t as if living in Guessing needed an
extra layer of warmth or any snow to hide in. I scoffed quietly.
Sveta had almost convinced me with her talk about transplants, her
own sob story of blindness, but my mind was clear again. Leave them
to it, this so called Sanctuary wasn’t for me.
    Sveta caught me
watching her and excused herself from the Yeti.
    “ How are
you settling in?” she said. “You seem to be on good form? I’ve been
watching you train.”
    “ Yeah,
it’s OK.” I said. I stepped past her. “I’m on my way out
now.”
    She looked
genuinely disappointed. “You can't leave now. We’re putting on a
show this evening, I hoped you could join me.”
    “ Look,
thanks, but this place, it’s not for me. I met Cato, he told me
what goes on here. This arena? I’m not into stage
fighting.”
    “ I had no
intention of forcing you to participate in our games, Rev. You’re
welcome to spectate. Even if you did choose to dabble in the show,
I couldn’t recommend it. Not with your recent
afflictions.”
    “ Thanks
all the same, Sveta.” I still tried not to meet her gaze. That
might have been the power she had over me. Some Animus magic. “I
really do appreciate the interest. I’m going to go now.”
    “ I am
going to escort you out,” she said. Even without meeting her eyes,
I was powerless to say no.
    After a silent
ride in the elevator back to the real world, the door closed behind
us and we stepped out into the street. The full moon hung low
between two towers. The night was unusually warm, even for spring
and it’s up and down, unpredictable weather. The sky was clear,
starless as it always was in the city. There was not any sign of
rain. Neither of us spoke or moved and I was acutely aware of the
small but unfathomable distance between our bodies.
    “ Goodnight,” I said.
    Sveta kissed me
on the cheek. It was expected but I still felt strange. My pulse
raced. I grabbed her wrist and pulled her arm to me, she followed
with an acceptance I didn’t expect and I returned her kiss, firmly
on the mouth. I pulled away. Sveta leaned into me, resting her head
on my shoulder. It was a natural instinct to wrap my arm around
her, the taste of her still on my lips.
    “ I feel
like I’ve taken advantage of you. I’m not used to people saying no
to me, Rev. No one I’ve chosen has ever said no to joining the
Sanctuary.”
    “ I’m not
saying no to you,” I said. “I just don’t want to be part of your
fighting thing.”
    I watched her
eyes.
    “ Walk
with me,” she said.
    She slipped her
hand into mine and I held it as we started to walk.
    “ I love
to walk through the city at night,” she said eventually.
    I didn’t.
    “ Tell me
about your eyes,” I said. It was forward and I didn’t care. I’d
known this woman all of five minutes and already I was sure of two
things. Her kiss was like some dark magic. And two, I’d never get a
straight answer out of her without a straight question
first.
    “ They
told me I would never see again,” she said. “My vision had just
started to fade one day, as if someone was gradually turning down a
dimmer switch. There was nothing wrong, not that anyone could
really see. So many tests and surgeries, I was so

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