Despite having half a foot of height over me, Cecelia wasn’t so heavy that I needed my power to carry her. It struck me as odd how soft she was, and not for the obvious pervy reasons. The woman was an athlete capable of destroying olympic records if she wasn’t disqualified for having powers, she should have been solid muscle, rather than the pleasant fluff. Dammit, she even smells good.
I glanced over to where Beatrice was dragging Domenic off into their back yard. Wow, she looks pissed. Good. AnticipationVictory. I shifted Cecelia’s weight on my shoulder some, for her sake. “Okay, let’s get you inside so we can take a look at you.”
I wasn’t Domenic, I didn’t read those medical books he had on the walls, but I did know the basics of first aid for poison victims. The problem was that almost all poisoning advice came down to ‘call hospital, do nothing else’. Even the old chestnut about induced vomiting was warned against unless the doctor gave approval. Didn’t matter here, in any case, as the chemicals hit her system long ago. We should be calling the hospital, which will do nothing but cause a thousand new problems.
“Mmm, yeah.” One of her hands crept up my side. “If you want, I’ll give you more than a look.”
Yuck. If I was being honest with myself, I was tempted, but still… Yuck. “Let’s worry about keeping you alive, first.”
She started to giggle. “That’s sweet.” Her hand slid further up. “You have crazy good abs.”
“Thanks.” I tolerated a couple more clumsy attempts to paw at me as I got her into Dom’s garage. The ‘skylight’ was still open, and the semi-liquid metal of my costume lay in a pile below. It came alive in Cecelia’s presence, and pulled itself into an amorphous blob which danced with electricity.
She abandoned me in favor of the mercury-like pool of metal, which she used much like an oversized bean bag chair. “Well, that was fun.”
Wait. “You’re not…”
AmusementSuccess. “Wasted off my ass?” She smirked at me as she settled further into the metal pool. “Please, I’d need to inject like a gallon of acid to get high. Real acid, from a car battery. But thank you for caring about my health.” AppreciationLove. “It meant a lot.”
When you put it that way, I feel like an idiot. “Is that why were you pretending to be overdosed on drugs?”
ImpatientAnnoyance. “How about we wait for Domenic so I don’t have to repeat myself?”
I wanted to tell her no on reflex, but she brought up a good point. Besides, the emotional turmoil I sensed from Domenic gave me the impression I needed to worry about him most of all. “Yeah, that’s for the best.”
We could sense when Domenic finished his argument with Bea, or perhaps Cecelia could and I took her assumption as fact. In either case, I waited at the door for another couple minutes for him to open it so I could hug him.
ReliefDutyLove. His hand went for my lower back, and his emotions were for me, but his focus was on Cecelia. “Okay, the fuck was that stunt about, what did you do to Ro, and why did you fake an overdose? I know the drugs don’t mean shit to you.”
“Don’t be so sure. I learned a couple tricks I might try out later.” Cecelia rolled backward, an act which sent slow rippled through the metal, and came up on her feet. “How’d you know I faked it?”
FrustrationDismissal. “I’ve seen real ODs before. Yours wasn’t. So has Bea, but you freaked her out so much that if we’re lucky she won’t figure out who you are from it. Now stop trying to dodge the question.”
I looked up at him. The fact that I hadn’t caught on now made me feel even more stupid.
IncredulityRejection. “You think she doesn’t know?” Cecelia now used the bag of metal as a step, which parted around her feet as she walked toward us. “Dom, I know you’re used to being the smart one, but Bea’s got brains to spare. She already knows. She’s just afraid to admit it to herself, and if I hadn’t done what I did, she would have kept snooping until she found something she couldn’t lie to herself about.”
Domenic looked back at the door, probably through it at his house. FrustrationLoss. “Your so-called Fate powers tell you that?”
“Common sense,” Cecelia said. “Look, we had one screwup that could end with us getting executed yesterday.” All my fault. Domenic’s arm pulled me against him a little harder, a nice side effect. “Luck saved us. I’d rather not rely on that a second time.”
ReluctanceUncertainty. “You’re saying that was the only way to make it right?”
“It was the best way.” WorryRegret. Cecelia took a couple hesitant, halting steps toward us. “All I had to do on this one was eat some gross tasting pills, while some of the other paths would hurt her, or you. I did you a favor!”
“I’m okay with getting hurt,” Domenic said.
Cecelia turned her eyes on me for a moment. “Too bad.” I agreed with her on that much, at least. “I had make her back off, somehow. And I did it while getting rid of those losers she calls friends, you’re welcome. Plus, I think I’ve proven you can trust me when we’re out range. You know I could be in Kentucky by now, if I wanted. But I didn’t do that. I chose to stay. In order to help you.”
GuiltDefensive. I glanced up at Domenic, then back to Cecelia. “You didn’t have to prove anything to us.”
NegationDismissal. “You know I can see when you’re lying.” RegretShame. Cecelia stretched her arms over her head. “What were you thinking we would do when school started? One of you just doesn’t go so you’re near me? As if that’s not suspicious. Or maybe we’re supposed to wait for the cops to show up and ask me why I’m skulking by a high school for eight hours a day? Or do you think we can create a fake ID that holds up against even the most basic background check? Do you know anyone who can forge an identity and doesn’t want to kill us?”
ReluctanceFailure. Again, Domenic’s grip on my side tightened. “I… we would have figured something out…”
FinalitySuccess. “And now you know you don’t have to, which would never have happened if I hadn’t gotten out of range. I can just wait at home and you don’t have to worry. Three birds, one stone. The best possible outcome.”
ChagrinAcceptance. “You’re right, we never would have felt safe leaving you alone.” Domenic extended the hand which wasn’t wrapped around me to Cecelia. She stepped in, to essentially hug his hand. ReliefHappy. “I’m sorry I doubted you.”
Don’t get jealous, don’t get jealous. I put my free hand on her other shoulder, to send the message that I agreed. Yeah, that’s the reason. “We should have known we could trust you.”
SafeCalm. “No, you shouldn’t have.” Her smile slipped a little. “You were doing the smart thing, and you would have kept doing the smart thing because you knew how dangerous it was to do anything else. That was the smart decision.” She tilted her head toward Domenic’s hand. “Wasn’t it?”
ApologeticRegretful. “Yeah, you’re right. Sorry.” He spoke for both of us, though his heart wasn’t all the way in. His head turned to look at Bea’s room, were walls not in his way. “I still have a lot of fixing to smooth things out with my sister.” He brought his gaze back down to Cecelia after a minute of silence. “Not as bad as if she figured out who you really are. In the long run, I think it’s a net gain, if it means we don’t have to worry about you when we’re at school, or who my sister associates with after. Speaking of, what did you do to Romeo?”
AmusementSuperiority. Cecelia smiled with a sort of fake innocence that reminded me of Bea. “Oh, nothing much. He tried to feel me up,” HateRetribution “I returned the favor. Didn’t do anything that would leave a mark.”
“I’m going to murder the son of a bitch. Don’t give a fuck who he thinks he knows.”
Romeo… oh, right, him. I ran down the implications of what could have happened if Cecelia or I had been normal girls, rather than Imbued. I should have hurt him worse when I had the chance. It must have been worse for Dom, since his sister spent a lot of time around that sleaze and the drugs they peddled. I put my arms around him. “Don’t. We have to lay low, remember?”
Domenic hesitated, considering the dangers. AmusedUnnecessary. Cecelia laughed a little. “Oh, I wouldn’t be too worried about him. After what I did, he’ll need some pills of his own. Little blue ones.”
UnderstandingSchadenfreude. Oh, she didn’t. ConfirmationSuperiority. Domenic took a breath. “Still say he deserved worse, but I guess it’s good enough for now.” ConcernRegret. He looked at me, the apology written on his face. “That just leaves the crap with Heritage.”
God damn it. Still my fault. “I wish I had better answers. If it was anyone other than Dad, I might be willing to call the bluff.” They had as much to lose as we did, after all. Quash, as the leader, was considered culpable of every crime committed by his people, which totaled enough that life in prison was the best he could expect. However, it was my dad, and if you asked me if he’d die for my mom, I wouldn’t hesitate to say yes. “I’m surprised he even bothered with the threats, instead of just going for it.”
ResignationDisgust. “I think it’s clear we’re in for a Mexican Standoff, for now.” Domenic looked down at the floor. “We’ve been vague enough about our detection methods that people will buy ‘they have a countermeasure’ as an explanation for why we stopped finding guns. It’s not even a lie, if you think about it.”
IrritationDefeat. “Pathetic cowards, can’t beat us fair, have to resort to blackmail.” Lightning danced across Cecelia’s skin. I noted how it avoided contact with Domenic, but not with me. Even on a subconscious level, she didn’t want to hurt him.
“Which means we’ll be picking off their competition, one way or another,” Dom said. “It sucks, but it’s how it has to be.”
It was true; vigilante laws had limits, and Cecelia’s opinions of our powers aside, we couldn’t track basic street crime as it happened. Our abilities were more suited to find and take down the proverbial big game. Big game which either belonged to Heritage, or belonged to their competition. I took a slow breath. “We can always… retire?”
SurpriseHope RejectionAnger. “Then they win!” Cecelia pulled away from us enough that she left my reach, but not Domenic, who kept his hand on her shoulder. Now I was a little jealous. “I don’t let my enemies win.”
“It… isn’t a bad idea.” Domenic, on the other hand, had wanted little else since I forced him into being a hero in the first place. “We can use… last night’s events… as an excuse, say we want a break. Maybe even call up those shrinks they recommended. Just for appearances, I guess. Let the villains fight each other for a while, maybe until Heritage gets driven out of town, and then take the fight to those sides.”
Much as it hurt me to give up, it was the best way to protect them from my failures. “We got less than a month before school starts, anyway. Harder for people to guess what school we go to if we stop now rather than then. We’ve got enough money from Paul to coast for a while, and the gun bounties for a bit extra.” It sucked, pretending I only cared about the money, but I would make the sacrifice. “We can take more time to work on our base, maybe?”
FrustrationResignation. “Fine, no more patrols.” Cecelia sounded about as pleased as she felt. “But I want us to triple down on training, instead. An hour of working out and another for sparring, and a third for drills. Every day. No exceptions.”
I nodded my agreement. “Yeah, that’s a great idea.” I was starting to feel soft, myself, having gone almost two months without hitting the gym even once. School gym classes wouldn’t help either, given the nature of my powers.
HesitationInadequate. “Okay, we’ll do that.” Domenic finally agreed to the concession as well.
“We’ll need it if we can’t get field experience,” Cecelia said. “It won’t be long before someone a lot scarier than Heritage makes a move for territory. And they won’t be holding back.”
RealizationDread. I exchanged a worried glance with Domenic.