Nathan opened his eyes tiredly. Why was he tired?
It hurt. It shouldn't hurt. Should it?
Maybe it should. Maybe it was going to hurt from now until the rest of eternity. He had had nothing but the best intentions and, even now, he didn't see what he could have done differently after Marnie had died but the fact remained that he had killed a lot of people.
Dear Shilo had shaken his arm and begged him to protect Mag (when did they even meet?) from the Repo Man. From his Repo Man, to be precise. And then once she had found out she had decried him as a monster and fled. Yes, she had cried over him and said she loved him. She had said that she wanted him to leave but she had a good heart and he was dying.
Shilo had thought he was a monster and if even she thought that, knowing nothing but the best of him for all these years, then what would anyone else think? What would Marnie?
He might have known she would never forgive him. He hadn't killed Mag but she had died just the same. He hadn't even tried to protect her.
And it was bright. So very bright.
"Dad," a voice said suddenly, expectantly. Strange. The voice sounded a lot like Shilo but that couldn't be.
He didn't know if she got out of the opera alive (Rotti might be dead but he had tried to make her the heir to Geneco and his three conniving murderous children were right there to witness it) but she would not be where he was. If he was in heaven Marnie would be there and his Shilo had no place in hell.
Was that it, then? Had his sins killed his Shilo?
Or maybe it was just a vision there to torment him, to remind him of just how far he had fallen and how little place he had amongst the decent people of the world.
"Shilo," he said, more because it was her voice than because he truly believed that she was there.
"Dad!" A hand swam into his view. "Dad, I need you to look at me."
Why not? Nathan obeyed.
Shilo was looking down at him with a complicated cast of emotions gracing her features. They seemed largely positive.
She looked different.
"My…" Shilo trailed off, frowning. Her eyes widened and she reached up to pat her head. "Oh, yes. It's started to grow in now that…Well. It has. And I know that it's not nearly as long as it was. Or the wig was, rather, but it's my hair. I'm still a little weirded out to have such short hair after having that wig for so many years but I guess it'll grow out in time."
"Shilo. What happened?" Nathan asked.
Shilo hesitated. "What do you remember?"
Why would she ask that? Was there something she didn't want to tell him if she didn't have to? Maybe he was just being paranoid. If he remembered nothing of the night that he should have died – might have died – then he would need to hear a lot more than if he remembered everything up until the point that he had said goodbye to his daughter and faded away.
It was a silly question, really. He remembered everything. He always did.
"I remember the opera. I remember that you were there and Rotti's bargain and how you told him that you were no murderer," Nathan said, faint pride in his voice. His daughter was a better person than he was. How he had managed to raise somehow as good as her, he could not even begin to fathom. It must be Marnie's genes. "I remember saying goodbye to you."
Shilo swallowed heavily. "I remember that, too. You passed out. You had lost a lot of blood. I had never seen so much blood. Half of it was Mag's, I guess. I thought you were going to die. Then Amber came back with some genterns and they took you two and Rotti away. There was nothing to be done for Mag and Rotti but they were able to save you."
There was so much that Nathan wanted to ask. Why would one of the Largo's save him when they were the one to put him in this condition in the first place? They had no love for him even if they lacked their father's burning hatred. Why would Shilo still be here at his side after she found out each and every one of his darkest secrets? Why hadn't they gone after her for what their father had tried to do to them? He had watched Luigi kill for less. Would he ever walk again? And, most importantly of all, was this even real?
But he was tired. He did not know how long he had slept but if the state of Shilo's once-bald skull was any indication then it had been a few weeks. He did not know how any of those conversations would go but he knew that they would not be pleasant. More than likely they would drive Shilo away again, this time for good. Perhaps that was why she was here. She had heard that he had killed her mother and poisoned her and she wanted answers. She didn't know the story of why he had gone from a savior to a killer either, if she even wanted to hear it. Maybe once she found out she would leave again.
He couldn't lose her again. He couldn't lose her at all and especially not so quickly.
It was selfish but he would let her broach the subject in her own time. Today, he just wanted to pretend that none of this had ever happened.
"I have a friend," Shilo announced proudly one day.
She had come to visit him every day so far. The only other people he saw were the genterns who were attending him and they did not have much to say to each other. He had never been fond of them. She hadn't mentioned any of the secrets he had kept for so long and he was not looking forward to the day that she did. Still, it did make him wonder. Did she want to pretend, too? Maybe they could pretend forever.
"A friend?" Nathan repeated.
Shilo nodded, looking pleased with herself. "I wanted to wait until I was sure to tell you and now I'm sure. I didn't know how I would be able to tell at first. In a movie or TV show you know because they spend a lot of time around the main character or they are main characters themselves or something like that but this is real life and I don't have a lot of experience in these things."
Nathan resolutely ignored the sudden burst of guilt the same way he always did when something happened to try and send him spiraling downwards. Somehow the killing had always been easier than anything related to Shilo. "And now you are sure?"
Shilo nodded. "I've been looking for him. He doesn't seem like he'd be any easy person to find, what with his job and everything, but I have been finding him pretty easily and he never tells me to go away or anything. I don't think he knows what to make of me."
Nathan had never known what to make of her and he had raised her and spent every day of her life with her. Every day until he had fallen at the opera. How could anyone else possibly have any idea? "Who is he?"
Shilo hesitated. "Well…he hasn't actually told me his name."
"He said it would just be so anticlimactic after all of this, that he has a certain image to maintain and it wouldn't do if after all of that I started to call him Kevin. He said his name was not, in fact, Kevin but it was just as non-exciting and he'd rather just keep going by Graverobber. He said that unless I started planning on hanging out with a bunch of other grave robbers it wouldn't cause any problems," she explained. "I had to admit, he did kind of have a point."
Nathan stared at her. She was spending time with a grave robber? Why would she be wasting her time on filth like that? They made their living stealing from corpses. How could anyone sink any lower?
"A grave robber," he repeated, trying to keep the judgment from his voice.
Apparently he didn't succeed as Shilo narrowed her eyes. "Why not? I was rais…" She trailed off, shaking her head and continued in a gentler tone. "I don't exactly know a lot of people, Dad, and the Graverobber has been really helpful. He saved me in that graveyard and then again when Rotti Largo took me to the opera."
"As I recall, you ended up at the opera anyway and any saving he might have done went to waste when he stood up and shouted that he was there like a fool when he knew that there were always people patrolling there at night," Nathan couldn't resist retorting. He knew what she had been about to say. She was raised by a Repoman and they were far more feared and hated than the graverobbers. He appreciated that she held herself back from saying it even though she was clearly thinking it.
"He can't help that I went back," Shilo insisted. "He's a good guy, Dad. I can't see myself doing what he does to survive but there are worse ways to make a living."
This was probably his fault. If he had let her go outside and meet other people then she wouldn't have to cling to the random undesirables that crossed her path. But by the world's standards wouldn't he fit into that category? There was a reason that nobody knew who the Repomen were. Well, now the world knew of him. If he ever got out of here…he couldn't even begin to imagine what next.
No one liked Repomen.
What would they do? Well, what did any group of people do when they found a monster hidden in their midst?
But his sins did not erase that of the graverobber's. Maybe he had lost the right to tell Shilo what to do a long time ago and he dared not try and take her 'friend' away now but he could not just say nothing and pretend he did not care.
"Just…be careful, Shi. You don't know much of the world."
A strange look crossed Shilo's face like she wanted to say something but was holding herself back. "I know. But I'm learning. And he who is not Kevin is helping me."
Another week went by before Nathan knew that his time was quickly running out.
Shilo hadn't said anything yet but she'd been distant and preoccupied since the moment she stepped into the room.
The tension was almost unbearable and still Nathan did not ask. He couldn't.
"Hey, Dad?" she finally asked.
"Can I talk to you about something?" Shilo asked nervously.
"You can talk to me about anything." Nathan had said those words before and had even meant them, to an extent. Anything she had known to talk about, he would talk about. He had spent countless awkward hours explaining puberty to her and analyzing to death the TV shows and movies she watched or the books she read.
This was different, though. Now there was so much she knew that she was never meant to know and he didn't even know if he could have this conversation. He owed it to her to try, though.
Shilo took a deep breath and reached over to quickly squeeze his hand. "Thank you. Can you tell me more about Mag?"
Nathan blinked a few times, unsure if he was hearing correctly. "Mag?"
"I…" Shilo looked down. "There are other things I want to talk about, too, but I thought this might be the best place to start. She said she was my godmother. She said that she had been told that I died. She said that you told her that I had died."
Ah, yes, Shilo had been present for that, hadn't she? He had done his best to get Mag out of his house and away from Shilo as quickly as he could (she had begged him to let Mag stay, not realizing she was much safer out there than with him) but it hadn't been quickly enough and who knew what Mag had told her before he had gotten home?
"Mag was a friend of your mother's, yes," he said slowly. "They had gone to school together. It was actually your mother who put her in touch with Rotti Largo, back when they were dating. She would have been horrified had she known the terms of the contract and how it would have all ended."
Shilo's eyes widened. "Mom was dating Rotti Largo?"
Nathan was not unaware of just how surreal the idea of Marnie and Rotti was and he had only met her through him.
"There's no accounting for taste," Nathan said simply. "It didn't last. Marnie wanted Mag to be a part of your life. When your mother got sick, she was always around. Your mother was worried that something would happen and she wouldn't be there to see you grow up. She didn't…" He trailed off, taking a deep shuddering breath.
"Dad?" Shilo asked, her eyes concerned.
Nathan just shook his head. "She didn't honestly believe that she was going to die. She had faith in me. But she wanted to be sure and so she asked that Mag step in if things went wrong. After your mother died, I knew that there would be no keeping her away from you."
"But why did you have to keep her away from me?" Shilo demanded. There was a tightness around her mouth that he didn't like. "Don't tell me it was for my health. Were you worried she would figure out what you were doing?"
That was skirting dangerously close to another topic that he did not want to discuss just yet. Or ever but there was no staving it off forever, not so long as Shilo continued to come. He would rather discuss the most twisted and painful parts of his past forever than have Shilo stop coming.
"Believe it or not, Shilo, I had not always intended for that to happen," Nathan told her.
"Then why?" Shilo sounded frustrated. "I know you always told me that the world was cruel and I've seen so much of that since the night of the opera. I almost lost you. Rotti tried to make me kill you. But Mag was a good person. She might be the best person I've ever met."
"I'm not saying that she's not," Nathan said.
"After your mother died…we were all devastated. I couldn't think. None of us had seen it coming, not really. I don't remember the funeral. All I knew was that you were all that I had in the world and I couldn't stand to let you out of my sight. But I must have, at the funeral, for Mag not to have known. It was awhile before she came by asking about you."
"Then why did you lie to her?" Shilo demanded.
"You were all I had," Nathan said again.
"Dad, just because I might have had more than literally one person in my life didn't mean that you were going to lose me!" Shilo exclaimed. "It might have even made things easier for you to have someone watch me when I was too young to be left home alone but obviously couldn't go in to work with you."
"It's not…" Nathan hesitated. "I'm not pretending that I made the best decision. I just panicked. She never came back after that."
Shilo's eyes widened. "Never?"
"Not until a few weeks ago. I think she could tell that she was unwanted and she did not know that you were still alive."
Shilo sighed heavily. "I wish that I had known her."
"It…may have benefited you to have her in your life," Nathan conceded reluctantly.
"Dad, you know that when you get out of here things are going to have to change," Shilo said seriously.
"I'm not a child anymore," she continued. "I can make my own decisions and I've been making a lot of them lately. I turned down the largest company on the planet! I know that I'm not sick and I'm not afraid anymore. You won't be able to keep me locked in my bedroom anymore."
Nathan just nodded. Even if he wanted to, they were a bit past that. If he could force her, all that that would do was make her hate him even more than he deserved now.
There was a knock on the door then.
Nathan glanced at it, startled.
Someone who seemed to be with security opened the door. "Miss Wallace, Mr. Largo would like to speak with you."
Shilo nodded. "I'll be out soon and we can talk then."
Once the door was shut again, Nathan frowned. "Mr. Largo?"
"Pavi," Shilo explained. "If it was Luigi then he would have just walked right in."
"Why didn't Pavi then?" Nathan asked. "Why does he want to see you at all? And why is there security outside of my room?"
"I don't know what he wants," Shilo said. "Of course there's security here! After they went through all the trouble of saving you, they don't want someone to assassinate you!"
"And yet Luigi can walk right in. You know he's the one who stabbed me, right?" Nathan asked rhetorically.
Shilo nodded. "Amber made him promise that he wouldn't do anything to either of us and she seemed to believe him. She's known him far longer than I have."
Nathan nodded, still not feeling comfortable about that. "I see. But then, why would security stop Pavi?"
Shilo bit her lip. "I'm not exactly sure."
"But you have an idea."
"I mean, even back at the opera when I was standing by Pavi Luigi went and moved me to the other side of the stage. I really had to wonder why. And, despite Luigi being the one most likely to kill me, Pavi's the one who they keep away from me. And I know that he's wearing Amber's old face now but apparently he switches them up a lot? He kind of gives me the creeps," Shilo confessed, shuddering. "Honestly, I don't really want to know and as long as people are making sure he's not left alone with me I don't think I have to know."
He didn't want Shilo around any of these people and if already terrible people like Amber and Luigi thought that Shilo needed to be protected from their brother then he wasn't sure he wanted to know either. He was glad that Shilo was being kept ignorant but he couldn't afford to be. He would need to find out as soon as possible. He was her father and he was supposed to protect her. Even if he hadn't been doing a great job of it so far and even if there wasn't much he could do until he recovered, he could at least find out what fresh dangers his daughter faced just being here at Geneco.
"I don't understand," he said, frustrated. "Why am I here? Why did the Largos save me? Why are they letting you come in and out of Geneco whenever you want? Their father tried to leave Geneco to you and everybody knows it!"
Shilo nodded. "That's it, exactly, I think."
Nathan's brow furrowed. "I don't understand."
"I'm…I'm not very good at this, Dad. I hadn't really met anyone apart from you until pretty recently and this whole new corporate world thing is pretty new to me. I'm trying to have as little to do with it as possible but I do need them to take care of you," Shilo said.
"Just tell me what you think," Nathan said, trying to be encouraging.
"Like you said, everybody saw that Rotti Largo tried to give the company to me. Everybody saw that he shot you and, before that, Luigi stabbed you. Everybody saw that he wanted to coerce me into killing you," Shilo explained. "And yeah, maybe everybody knew about Repomen and all of that but it's one thing to know about it and quite another to see it happening. The story goes that Repomen only attack when you're alone so it's not like anyone ever sees these things go down unless they're the victim. Amber was horrified at the bad publicity and she just immediately got everyone who was injured medical treatment before trying to figure out where to go from there."
"Amber?" Nathan repeated, unable to believe it. That selfish, spoiled girl might not have been the threat to society that her murderous brother (or was that brothers?) was but he had never taken her for leadership material. He had not seen much of her but he had not been impressed and her compulsive surgeries were a bit of an open secret. He supposed it made sense for someone like her to want the power and prestige of inheriting Geneco but that didn't mean that she would be good at it.
"Amber," Shilo confirmed. "I guess she had something her brothers didn't or something because when she took the company they quickly fell into line behind her."
"And…how do you fit into this?" Nathan asked.
Shilo smiled briefly at him and squeezed his hand. "I'll see you soon, okay?"
"Promise me that you don't trust them," Nathan said the minute Shilo stepped through the door to his room again.
"I don't trust them," Shilo repeated dutifully. "I'm guessing you mean the Largos?"
Nathan nodded. "Luigi is a stone-cold killer who has been raised to believe, with good reason, that he can get away with anything and his siblings may be less violent but certainly no better."
Shilo sighed and plopped herself down in the chair beside his bed. "It's not about trust, exactly. I don't know, maybe someday they'll decide that I'm more trouble than I'm worth and they'll just have me killed but for now I need them and they need me. I'm not exactly planning on sticking around long enough for them to start to have those thoughts about me."
"I know why you need them," Nathan said, glancing shamefully at his still-healing body. "But what could they possibly need you for? They want to be shown to be taking care of the victims of their father's insanity? Surely by now the public will have moved on."
Shilo shrugged. "I'm afraid I wouldn't know. Amber…she's not nice, I don't think, but she hasn't been cruel to me. Like I said before, everyone knows that her father wanted me to be his heir. I turned down the position and he never actually signed that will but Amber doesn't want people who aren't happy with how she's running the company to rally around me."
"She could solve that problem very nicely by killing you," Nathan pointed out.
Frowning, Shilo replied, "She decided not to, I guess. Probably because she's trying to distance herself from the scandal at the opera. All of the Largo siblings have their…reputational challenges and I don't. I was the chosen one, even if I did come out of nowhere, and people like that I didn't kill my own father out of greed. If I support Amber, she looks better and she says her claim to the throne is more secure."
"And you do support her?"
Shilo shrugged. "Honestly, I don't give a damn about Geneco and all of this. If it weren't for the fact that I needed you to get taken care of then I'd have gone into the wind a long time ago."
So once again, despite his best efforts, he was the one keeping his daughter in danger. He resolved to apply himself twice as hard to recovering. The sooner they could disappear from the lives of the Largos the better.
"It's not like we're always hanging out," Shilo continued. "I rarely even see them. They're all very busy doing…things. Running the company in Amber's case, I guess."
Nathan nodded. "That's good. Whether they have your best intentions in heart or not, they simply aren't very good influences."
"Honestly, I don't think I'm ever going to have surgery," Shilo said. "Ever."
That wasn't what he was referring to but it was good to know he wouldn't have another Pavi or Amber on his hands.
He waited for Shilo to say something else but she didn't and he looked more closely at her. She looked like she desperately wanted to say something but wasn't quite sure how to.
"Shilo, is there something that you wanted to ask me?" Nathan asked gently. He hoped that the answer was no but he rather suspected that she was finally going to hit him with some of those impossible questions. She wouldn't be able to leave and move on without doing so but, heaven help him, he still had no answers to give.
"I guess…" Shilo trailed off, biting her lip and staring at her knees. "I guess that I just wanted to know…why?"
"Why what?" He wasn't being coy. There were too many 'whys' that lay between them and he had no idea where to even begin.
Shilo swallowed awkwardly. "Right, of course. Why are you a Repoman? You said you were a doctor. You certainly seemed to know what was going on with me but then I guess you would, wouldn't you? Why would you do that? How could you do that?"
"I am a doctor, Shilo," Nathan told her. "You were my only patient in years but back before you were born I was just a normal, boring old doctor. I worked with Geneco, too, but I had never killed anybody."
"And then I was born and I drove you to murder?" Shilo asked uncertainly.
Nathan shook his head emphatically. "No, of course not! How could you even think that?"
"I don't know what to think," Shilo admitted. "Was it Mom? Did you just crack after her death?"
What a question.
"That wasn't why."
"Well then what was? Are you going to just make me keep guessing?" Shilo demanded.
"I had to. Rotti left me no choice," Nathan said desperately. "I had never wanted that, how could I have ever wanted that?"
Shilo shook her head. "I don't understand. How could he force you to be a Repoman? Did he threaten to kill you like he tried to kill you tonight?"
"He didn't have to," Nathan said hollowly. "All he threatened to do was tell the truth."
It took a moment for that to sink in. He could tell when it had because Shilo's eyes widened and she unconsciously scooted back in her chair.
"He said something about how you killed my mother," Shilo said, her voice nearly inaudible. "I didn't have time to focus on that then. You didn't deny it."
And he wasn't going to deny it now. "It was an accident."
"So you said."
"I…" Nathan trailed off, sighing. "I can't."
"I can't," Shilo countered. "What happened?"
"Do you remember what I told you about your mother's blood disease, the one that eventually killed her?" Nathan asked rhetorically.
Shilo nodded. "The one you said that I had. I had assumed you'd made that up."
"Not all of it," Nathan said. "She didn't always have it, though. It only started a little bit after she fell pregnant. This isn't your fault!"
Shilo was blinking rapidly. "I didn't say that it was."
"Make sure that you don't believe that it was, either," Nathan said firmly. "We both wanted you very much and we loved you from the moment we knew that you were coming. Always remember that. The illness isn't what killed her anyway."
"Then what did?"
"The illness was pretty bad and we were worried about what would happen if she tried to give birth while she was as sick as she was," Nathan explained. "Your mother trusted that I would be able to find a cure. I worked around the clock for months. You have to believe me, Shilo, I really thought I had it. I loved your mother more than I will ever love anything in my life. I never would have killed her on purpose."
"So…you gave her what you thought was a cure but it didn't work," Shilo surmised.
Nathan closed his eyes. "More than that. She was sick but my cure killed her. Perhaps she would have soon been dead anyway, I don't know, but the point was that I was the one who killed her then. I knew what was happening. She lost consciousness and her organs were failing and I knew that there was nothing I could do for her."
"But wait, if she was still pregnant-" Shilo began.
"I cut you out of her," Nathan cut her off. "Yes. And then Rotti came with his guards. We were at work, you see, because all of my equipment was there and he had heard the commotion or something. It doesn't matter. He was there and he saw what I had done, how I had killed your mother, and he did what he always does. He took advantage."
Shilo shook her head helplessly. "I-I still don't understand. It was an accident. How could he have taken advantage? Did he just give you a contract to sign or something and knew you wouldn't read it because you were so upset?"
"I may not have tried to kill your mother, Shilo, but the fact remained that I gave her something to drink and she lied. I must have gotten something wrong. If they had had it tested who knows what they would have found? I would have gone to prison," Nathan told her. "I didn't care for myself, of course, how could I after what I had done to Marnie? But your mother was dead and you were not and I couldn't just leave you alone like that. I couldn't. Rotti offered to fix it for me, he just wanted one little thing in return. I've always been a gifted surgeon."
Shilo was looking sick, her hand over her mouth. "Oh my God!"
"This is all my fault."
"I just said it wasn't!" Nathan exclaimed.
"She got sick because she was pregnant with me. You had to go off and become a killer and work for these terrible people to protect me. You can't deny that none of these things would have happened if it hadn't been for me."
"I'm not," Nathan said, "but you were an infant. You couldn't control our choices."
Shilo sat there for a moment, just breathing, before she slowly nodded. "I know that. I do. I just…I'm going to need a little time to come to terms with this."
With that, Shilo stood and walked out of the room without looking back.
It was three days before Nathan saw his daughter again but she looked much better.
"Are you okay?" he asked her.
Shilo managed a small smile. "Believe it or not, I actually am. The Graverobber is a really good listener and it turns out he has some pretty good advice, too."
"I'm…glad." He was, really, that Shilo had somebody to turn to but he didn't have to actually meet this graverobber to not be thrilled at Shilo's continued reliance on him.
"You could have told me that you were a Repoman, Dad," Shilo said quietly. "We could have had honesty in that, at least."
But Nathan shook his head. "I couldn't have done that. It's hard enough for you to face now. Can you imagine when you were seven if you knew that when I left I was going off to kill poor people for their organs because they had needed new organs to live? That I was literally cutting them open right there in the streets?"
Shilo looked disturbed by the thought. "I could have gotten used to it."
"I never wanted you to be the sort of person who would be okay with that. There really would be no winning, you see? Either you could never accept it and I'd lose you or you could and I would have ruined you. At least now you can disapprove of what I did but be secure in the knowledge that all of that is over now," Nathan told her. Even now, it was so hard to face her knowing that she knew. If he had been able to leave the building and weren't injured still then he didn't know that he would have been able to.
"I don't think I remembered to ask you this before but…you know that it isn't your fault what happened, right?" Shilo asked. "To Mom?"
Nathan looked away. "Shilo…"
"I mean it!" Shilo cried out. "You made sure that I knew not to blame myself and now it's my turn to do the same."
"It's not the same," Nathan argued. "You did nothing. If she had just died of the illness then it wouldn't have been my fault. Well…maybe a little for failing to find her cure but it wouldn't have been the same as actually feeding her her poison. And that is what I did."
"An accident would be if made dinner and didn't get all the bones out and she choked to death or if there was a fire and she tripped on something I didn't pick up and didn't make it," Nathan countered. "This was me giving her something I thought would save her but didn't."
"But that's just it! You tried to save her. You did the best you could. I never met her, obviously, but even I can see how much you loved her. You didn't kill her and I don't blame you for it."
The force of the words left him breathless. He didn't know that he believed them but he believed that Shilo meant them and that was more than he had ever expected. There was a reason he had begged Rotti to never tell her. She wasn't there so she didn't truly know but she did know some of it. All those years of blaming himself, hating himself, weren't going to disappear overnight – if they ever did – but Shilo's forgiveness was a beautiful thing to behold nonetheless.
"There is one thing that I am holding you accountable for and need an answer to," Shilo said pointedly.
"The blood poison."
Shilo nodded. "The blood poison, exactly. Why would you do that to me? I know you said you wanted to protect me but surely you didn't have to go to such extremes to try and do it! Especially not when I was…oh, how old was I when I first got sick? Five maybe?"
"Five is when you would have started going to school if you weren't ill," Nathan pointed out.
"Why would that have been so bad?" Shilo asked. "I wasn't about to run away from home or anything like that."
"Looking back, I am horrified at what I did," Nathan told her. "I just couldn't lose you."
"Why would you think you were going to lose me?"
Nathan sighed. "I can't explain it. These fears…they aren't rational. I don't know that I've been in my right mind since your mother died. I never should have done it. I just knew that the world was a terrible place getting worse by the day and that I had lost everything I had ever loved except for you. You were literally my only reason to keep going and you were all that remained of Marnie. And you were so bright and innocent! I couldn't bear to see you tainted."
"I…can't deny that the world does have a lot of problems," Shilo conceded. "And who knows? Maybe I am better for having grown up kept away from all of those. But you poisoned me, Dad, for more than a decade."
What could he say to that?
"It wasn't even necessary! You already told me that the world was cruel and that's why you didn't want me to go out!" Shilo burst out. "You could have just told me to stay inside and I would have!"
Now that he did take issue with and he gave her a pointed look. "Really."
Shilo flushed. "Well…definitely when I was younger. And if you had just taken me out on occasion that would have been enough for me. Then I wouldn't have had to sneak out and get myself into trouble and then I'd be less clueless. What if you had died, Dad? What if the Largos just forgot all about me? Where would I go? What would I do? I don't know enough about this world of ours. I mean, maybe I could have gone to the Graverobber but he's kind of a fugitive drug dealer who the police want to execute on sight so I'm not sure that's the safest plan. And what if I'd never met him? You had to know that sooner or later you were going to die and leave me here alone."
"I guess I just didn't really want to think about it. I really wasn't capable of doing more than taking it one day at a time."
"I don't know how I'm ever going to be able to forgive you for that," Shilo said seriously.
"I know," Nathan replied.
"I'm going to try, though."
"You shouldn't," Nathan said seriously.
"I have to. You're my father and I love you. We need each other and it's not going to happen again," she said.
It wasn't a question but he answered anyway. "No. It's not."
"I guess I really just have one more big question," Shilo said, sounding almost surprised. "Strange. I wouldn't have thought having to talk about all these dark secrets you've been keeping my whole life would be so freeing."
It didn't make him feel free; it just made him feel raw. But it couldn't stay so achingly painful forever, could it? Even Marnie's death became a dull throb at times.
"Why did you go there that night?" Shilo asked. "To the opera, I mean. I was there because Rotti Largo promised me that he'd cure me. And…I guess in a way he did but he was still lying to me. I know that at some point before I got there he incapacitated you but you were there earlier when I found out about the whole Repoman thing. What was going on? Were you there to kill Mag?"
"No," Nathan answered immediately. There were many sins that could be laid at his door and that had very nearly became one of them but ultimately it was not. He had done the right thing for once and all hell had broken loose. But at least he had this to tell his daughter.
Shilo looked like she wanted to believe him. "I know that a Repoman was supposed to take out her eyes but then she fell."
"It was supposed to be me," Nathan confessed. "But I couldn't do that, Shilo."
"Why not?" she asked. "You did it to so many other people. Why should Mag be any different?"
"She was your mother's best friend," he said. "I couldn't do that to her. Rotti was not used to defiance and he had resented me for years, probably ever since your mother chose me over him even though he never let it show until after her death. He sent his men after me."
"And that's why you were at the opera?" Shilo asked. "To make him stop?"
"To make him stop, yes, but it wasn't about the assassins," Nathan told her. "He had drawn you out and was threatening out lives. He wanted to kill me and who knew what he had planned for you? Even if he just wanted to make you his heir…I didn't know he was dying. I couldn't have him take you, too. And then when you rejected me-"
"I'm sorry," Shilo apologized.
"You were right," Nathan said heavily. "I was a monster. I knew that, of course, but it didn't seem to matter as long as you didn't think so."
"I didn't say that I was wrong," Shilo said evenly. "But that's not the point. I hurt you and I'm sorry. I know it's not that simple and I told you to die. I didn't really mean that and, when I saw you get shot, I knew just how much I didn't mean that."
"I know that you didn't," he assured her. "If I had killed Rotti, he would have deserved it."
Shilo nodded. "I know. But I don't want you to kill anyone anymore."
"I won't." That life was behind him now finally. Maybe the feeling of freedom would come in time.
Nathan shrugged. "I don't know. I don't hear much sitting in this room all day. But the genterns say that I should be okay to leave in a few days."
"Amber called the Repomen off of you," Shilo told him. "I guess that when you're released we go home."
"Just like that?" Nathan couldn't believe it.
"Just like that," Shilo confirmed. "But you know it won't be the same."
"Nothing ever is."
"It doesn't have to be bad, though. After that…well, I guess we'll just have to take it one day at a time," Shilo decided.
That was all he had ever done because to do otherwise would be too overwhelming. But this time there seemed to be hope instead of despair. It wasn't perfect but it was better than he deserved. It wasn't as much as his daughter deserved but it was what she wanted and it was long past time for her to start getting her way in life.
Shilo was staring at him, waiting for his answer.
"I think I can do that."