Patty yawns, rests her head on Liz’s shoulder. Before he can stop himself he snaps: “Sit up straight!”
“Huh? Oh.” Instead of jerking awake, an echo of his panic, she folds upward like a flower blooming. It reminds him to breathe.
He really should tell them to take their weapon forms now; they aren’t necessary for this job, and, contrary to what Liz says, he does in fact know it’s four-thirty in the goddamn morning. That even twin pistols need their rest. But he doesn’t know what to do with his hands. They keep sweating (disgusting, he is disgusting and should die) and he’s already given Patty three ruined cans of Vanilla Coke. Perhaps holding cold steel would help. But he can’t scratch all the itches in his brain himself.
“Are there wrinkles in my suit?”
“Not since you asked five minutes ago.” He notes that Liz actually looks him over, if cursorily.
“You know, what if we came at sev–I mean, six o’clock?” asks Patty. “Then I could watch cartoons.”
“I cannot be late,” he says. This isn’t like class, or even hunting kishin eggs. He’s not even supposed to do this, technically (he is horrible garbage), but Father cannot leave the city and, oh God, he can’t even put his hands in his lap, because then he’ll drum his fingers on the ekiben—which he should put in his satchel, but it keeps his hands off his suit—and Liz will kill him.
“I have to pee,” Patty says.
He’d count to 16 million, 777 thousand, 216, but there is not enough time.
Father would tell him to smile; it’s better if he doesn’t. “Honorable madam,” he says, bowing.
The woman narrows her eyes as if he’s (disgusting, he is disgusting) a creature she’s never seen before. And then he remembers that Father is the one in all the paintings. “ ‘Madam?’ What’s with you, kid?”
He does not look up. “I’m here to help you cross.”
“How old do you think I am? I got discharged from the hospital. I’m going home.”
“Yes,” he says. He takes the ekiben, the seventh Vanilla Coke can he bought out of his satchel. “These are for our trip.”
Her gasp is so small that Liz and Patty wouldn’t have heard it. “Listen, you creep. I’m just trying to take the train, okay?”
“Which number is it?” he asks, although he already knows the answer.
Her voice creeps carefully around the word. “Four.”
“And the platform?”
“One hundred…and eight.” Then, after a long pause: “I thought you’d be taller.”
“Everyone says that. Shall we be off, then?” He offers his arm.
When the clock on the wall says eight-forty exactly, she takes it.