I woke up with hair in in my mouth. Still groggy, I spit it out and sat up. In the process my arm slipped and plopped on the blonde next to me. Chloe? ConfusionFoggy. She shifted, then began her own return to the waking world. Now that I’d started to wake up for real, I recalled that the three of us stayed in my garage, since the girls’ hideout was way outside of town and none of us felt up for the trip. The sky was already getting light by the time we made it here. That extra ten miles out of town would have been hell.
Okay, we gotta get my car. I left it on the other side of town, that’ll be our first priority. I couldn’t trust it to be safe in a parking lot for too long.
Chloe sat up, then leaned against me. ComfortReliefLove. “Hey. Thanks for letting me borrow your bed. And, umm, putting up with all my drama.”
“You can stay in my bed any time you want.” HappyDesire. The tingles working their way into my otherwise numb arm disagreed, but they were overruled by a different form of tingling. I kissed her on the forehead rather than expose her to the morning breath. “Besides, your presence is our best defense. Do you think Quash would have hesitated to go nuclear if not for you?”
GuiltLossRegret. “If not for me, you would have went straight for Quash on the first night out.” I began to formulate an argument that without her, we wouldn’t know who Quash was to go after him in the first place. The hard part would be overcoming her counter that she could have gone public about her parents from day one, before I came into the picture, thus rendering him harmless. We’d gone through it enough times that it had become rote. RealizationDread. “Where’s Cecelia?”
Huh? She was nowhere to be found in the garage. I called to my metal, which flowed slower than it had since the night I came home from our treasure hunting expedition. I couldn’t feel her through our link, either. Even my connection with Chloe was beginning to fade, though we both retained enough of Cecelia’s power to bind us together for the time being. “She’s gone.”
FearLossPanic. “Do you think she went after my father?”
Sounds like something she’d consider. “Maybe.” My first theory, that she ditched us so we were no longer targets, sounded too much like running to fit her personality. “Got enough juice to get to his mansion without all of her’s, too? We just need you to get in her range, right?”
“Uh, yeah, if you give me your charge.” HesitationFearLoss. “But if they already got her? I don’t think we can tell the difference between out of range and dead.”
I wondered about Chloe’s fear of Cecelia’s death. She wasn’t a friend, only barely an ally. She was a monster who’d done hideous, unforgivable things to a lot of innocent people, and she was supposed to be a prisoner helping to pay for her own upkeep. Caring about her was insane, but somehow I felt the same sense of emotional loss at her absence.
Worry about that later. “If you don’t see a giant smoking hole in your old home, it’s a safe bet she didn’t go there.” I switched over to my metal-vision. “I know your range with her is better, but I’ll drive around town, see if-” oh, shit. WorryHelp. “Bea’s car’s not here.”
PanicGuiltRejection. “You don’t think-” For a moment, even through the diluted link we carried without Cecelia, we were stunned to paralysis. “She wouldn’t. Right?”
The pain in my arm was meaningless to the fear in my chest. “I… I don’t… we’ve never let her off the leash before.” I’d never spoken those words aloud before, we’d never discussed the danger Cecelia represented if she was out of range of our Pairbonds. By unspoken agreement, we were together as much as possible, and never did we leave her alone. That it allowed me and Chloe to share our feelings for one another didn’t hurt, either.
“Load me up, I’ll go out. I should be able to cover most of the city in an hour. I’ll find her.”
If she doesn’t use her power to hide, if she hasn’t had hours to drive Bea’s car in any direction. My metal started flowing around Chloe nonetheless, giving me a faint mental map of every curve on her body. An ability I might lose forever, soon. “I’ll go inside, maybe she just stole the car. Or I can call her cell.” My plan was just as flawed as Chloe’s, but standing around doing nothing was not an option.
“Right.” Chloe shot up to the ceiling, popped that secret entrance, and shot out as fast as her power could take her. Not something we ever wanted to do during the day, but now was not the time to care about secrecy.
For my part, I rushed into my house, hoping against hope I’d find Beatrice lazing about in her room or something. I noted the smell of fried vegetables upon entering the house, which meant Nanna was in the kitchen. I took a breath of relief; if Nanna was well, it meant Cecelia didn’t start a murder spree in my house.
I skipped talking to her for now; no sense in worrying Nanna, and no hope pretending I wasn’t in full panic mode. Bea’s room was the usual mess, with several changes of clothes strewn about which eliminated all chances of finding clues. I opted to call Bea’s cell from the upstairs phone instead. I had never hated ringing so much as in that moment, nor voice mail messages.
“Hey, either I’m busy, or I don’t wanna talk to you right now. But you can leave a holla in case I change my mind.”
An automated message let me know her mailbox was full, so I could not, in fact, leave her a message. Dammit. I dialed the phone again, intent on blowing up her phone until she answered. This is a good sign, right? Cecelia was the type who liked to ‘play’ with her victims. She’d keep Bea’s phone just to pull some sick mind-. The phone clicked. “Beatrice! Where the hell are you?!”
“~Heya, Dom~,” Cecelia’s voice was sing-song. She even started to giggle after.
“Cecelia! What have you done?” Please God, let there still be a chance. “Where’s Beatrice? Let me talk to her.”
“Relax, I din’do nothin’.” Cecelia started another giggle fit. “Hey, Bea-Boo, ~yer brother wants you~. Should I be jealous?”
There was some sound as the phone was jostled around, then Beatrice’s voice came over the phone. “Look, before you say a word, I already know. I’m, like, ten minutes away and- Dammit! Tia! Put your pants back on!”
“Wait! Tell-” Too late, she’d hung up. I dialed the phone again, and then a second time without answer. RecognitionSuccessConcern. If I felt Chloe from this range, that meant Cecelia had to be back in her range. The metal wrapped around my ankle didn’t have enough charge otherwise. I took a slow breath, reaching out our errant prisoner through our Pairbond. AmusedSmugSoothing.
I suppose that’s her way of telling us to relax. Okay, we’re in the clear. Or as clear as we ever were, this event called into question every decision we’d ever made involving the serial killer who lived in our metaphorical basement. I set the phone back on the hook and snuck my way outside again, grateful Nanna was still busy. With my eyes on the sky, and a good idea where to look, I spotted Chloe well above the tree line. Huh, that blue glow of hers isn’t half bad camouflage against the sky. She dropped much faster than gravity toward the garage, landing on the roof seconds before Bea’s car turned the corner.
Beatrice nearly hit the curb on pulling into the drive, having to swat Cecelia’s hand away from her while trying to park. She jumped out of the car, then slammed the door behind her while Cecelia crawled into the driver’s seat. ShockConcern.
“Good, you’re both here. You!” Beatrice pointed past me, at Chloe. “Go take care of that bitch. You!” She’d stormed up enough to grab my arm. “Come!” I was relieved enough to forgive her for treating me like a literal dog. She led me into our rather modest back yard.
She spun me around to face her, then looked up with tears in her eyes. “Now, I’m sure you have a lot of questions, and are about to say a bunch of shit about what I should do.” I hadn’t, actually. “And I’mma let you, if you promise me one little thing.”
Not how I expected my next conversation with my sister to go. “Uh, yeah, anything you want.”
“Please.” She gripped my shirt and pulled me close. “Stop sticking it in the cray-cray!”
“What did she do?” Wait. “Uh, I mean, I’m not doing anything with Felicia.”
“Not talkin’ about fuckin’ her.” Beatrice did not let go of my shirt. “I mean this whole crazy business you’re in. With the powers. I know she’s Spark. She’s…” Bea trailed off, then looked back. “Do you have any idea how nuts she is?” I did, but I couldn’t tell my sister that. “She attacked Ro. Made him cry, and call her mommy. Then she started popping ex and hydros like they were tic tacs. Three hundred bucks of the shit.”
Christ, that could be bad. Wait, Romeo means… “The hell were you-”
“Shut up!” Tears ran down her cheeks, now. “I know what you’re gonna say.” She stopped herself to breathe. “I can’t go back there now, anyway. She burned those bridges and pissed on the ashes. And I’ll stop hanging with the other guys, too, if you promise me one thing.”
“Stop it. This superhero bullshit, quit it. It’s fucked up, and the people you’re with are fucked up, and just walk away from that and I’ll stop from all the shit you hate.” She forced a smile that bordered on the manic. “You go back to med school, and I’ll be a perfect little sister. If you just walk the fuck away before this shit gets you killed.”
Oh. I pulled her into a hug as I put my own thoughts together. I couldn’t tell her who Cecelia was; setting aside my sister’s inability to keep secrets, Cecelia would know if Bea knew who she was even if I could keep it from her. Explaining Quash might be even more dangerous, or force me to reveal more about Chloe’s family life than I cared to. “I’m sorry, I can’t.”
Beatrice pushed away from me. “Fuck you!” She turned, then stomped off.
I chased after. “Bea! Wait!”
“No, I get it. Hot white chick ass.” She didn’t slow down nor look at me. “Thought you were smarter than that shit, but whatever. That’s yo thing now? Fine, but don’t try playin’ high an’ mighty with me anymore. You ain’t any better. Least I ain’t bringin’ it home with me.”
Ouch. I stopped and let her go. She wasn’t the sort who listened to reason at the best of times, and I wasn’t in a position to argue logic at the moment. In addition, she was right, I was the one who fucked everything up by bringing it home with me. Chloe first, then Cecelia, and through them the constant threat of Heritage looming over us.
There was a time when I swore to myself I’d make a few bucks and get out. Now I have enough money to tide me over for the first two years of college, but couldn’t leave even when my sister begged me. Fuck.
I stayed there thinking for what felt like forever, then turned for the garage where Chloe and Cecelia were waiting.