Price Threefold, Chapter 27- Cecelia

Only after landing near Dom’s car did he look back at the mess we’d helped create. HorrorRegretGuilt. “God. What have I done?”

Chloe took the opportunity to give him a hug, as she always did when they got the chance. “It’ll be okay.” LoveSupport. She pulled herself about as tight against him as he could withstand. “We made it, everything will be okay.”

I felt myself getting a little worked up, a combination of the fight we just won, and their response to each other. Someone needs to pick up a dictionary and remind that girl what a lesbian is. I added a few choice holes in my outfit, including the much-maligned cleavage window, to drop the hint in my own subtle way. Some day, I would find the asshole responsible for that going out of style, then express my opinion on the matter.

I distracted myself from those fantasies by looking at the rippling field of death through my Fate-sight. The storm of possibility was blinding, so I drew on both my Pairbonds to clarify my senses. Domenic to prune the useless paths, and Chloe to push my senses past their normal limits.

I looked at the furthest reaching outcomes I could find, learning the consequences of the Greenwitch’s death. If she’s dead at all, can’t rule out that what we fought was a crazy drug induced dream. Up until today, I would have ruled that as impossible, but my power was certain the Greenwitch’s drugs would work on me during our fight. Either she beat my power, or she tricked my power into thinking she could beat it, and thus she beat my power. I trusted nothing my power told me about the hag’s Fate, but it insisted she was dead and gone.

The other pool of possibilities, I was half blind to. That is where other Espers are peaking into the same event, seeking out answers to what happened here. Especially weird were the Espers watching from the future, leaving signatures in the past which played havoc on my powers. I took comfort in knowing that they’d blind each other as much as they did me. Simple logic, since nothing else would work, placed the Espers on some government group or other. Whomever it was, whatever they did, they had the power of overwhelming numbers on their side.

No special threat loomed over us, however, and the poison was Fated to stay in place. “Don’t worry, there’s nothing in it that’ll spread or anything. We’re safe. We should leave, though, before anyone shows up.”

FearSuspicion. Chloe drew back from Domenic enough to look at me. “Then the witch?”

I felt insulted by how she didn’t check me out, only then realizing my mistake: I still had clothes on under my costume. Now to pretend I didn’t screw that up. I ordered more of my costume to shift around my body, smoothing it out into something sleek and elegant, rather than a bladed death machine. “I think she’s gone.”

HopeGuiltFear. Domenic now looked at me, again ignoring my assets. “You mean she might still be alive?”

Ugh. Normally Dom was a brilliant thinker following logic and goals. I respected that, even admired him for it, but then there were situations like this one where he forgot all that and became just another blubbering idiot ruled by emotions.

Fine, guess I’ll assure him. “Well, from this distance, I can’t be sure of anything.” Making someone feel better when you couldn’t lie was a pain in the ass. I looked more or less in the direction of home, in the process twisting my back into a pose which gave them excellent views of my entire figure. “I know we shattered the witch’s backup power source.” Unless she’s even more scary than we thought she was. “Your sister’s safe, now, and that means the witch is gone.”

RevulsionGuilt. Wait, that’s the opposite of what I expected. Where’s the sense of security, of victory? “I’m a murderer.” UnderstandingLoveForgiveness. Oh, that’s the problem. Domenic looked back at the forest. “I want to be a doctor, to take a vow to not do harm… but then I… I killed her and… how am I supposed to forgive myself?”

Dammit! You’re supposed to be happy! We brought down one of the scariest fuckers on the planet, and you’re ruining it! Don’t take away our success like this! RealizationRegret. Domenic’s head turned toward me. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to bring up bad memories”

No! “They’re not bad!” Lightning danced in response to my emotions; power I had thought exhausted roared to the surface, no doubt at the cost of internal injuries I’d spend hours mending later. Something broke inside me. Not inside, around, connected to me but not of me. Them.

“They’re my favorite memories! I like being a murderer!” The deranged witch was right, I had been bound, but not anymore. HorrorDefend. “I was good at it, and it felt wonderful and I’m fucking proud of it!”

Chloe took a position in front of Domenic. ConcernConfusion. “Cecelia?” She drifted forward, pretending she cared about me, but the power dancing through her shield told the true story: she was protecting him from me. She’d kill for him just as he’d kill for his sister. She needn’t have bothered; even now, I was too tightly chained to consider killing either of them. But if I push them hard enough, perhaps they’ll be able to kill me.

“Did something happen?” CompassionCalm. Chloe moved forward, her face as etched with concerned as her feelings. It won’t be enough, I won’t allow myself to fall for it. “Did the Greenwitch use some emotion power?”

Maybe. “No!” I allowed my lightning to crackle across my skin much as Chloe’s own. The wisps of green in my power reminded me that I was using as much of her strength as my own right now. I altered my power some, just enough that the biting pain of electricity slid across my skin; a reminder that this was the enemy.

I stared them both down, snarling like a wild animal. I brought my hands up, displaying claws of metal and lightning to emphasize the point. “This is who I am! I hunted people down for the fun of it. Toyed with their minds, watched the light of hope go out first, then I killed them when I got bored of their suffering. I was the best!” Cora was better. I haven’t thought of her in months. “Now I’m reduced to a piece of property. A slave.” RejectionAnger DefensiveRegret. “I exist only so a lesbian can fuck her boyfriend!”

TrappedHumiliation. Watching Chloe’s skin turn red while glowing green was a little funny, and a lot kissable. It disgusted me to feel that way. “W-we, I didn’t-” Chloe took a step away from me, toward Domenic, which left me with jealousy to pretend I didn’t feel. “We’re not-”

Time to end this sad farce. I raised an eyebrow. “Really pushing the dumb Tank stereotype to the limits, there.” IndignationHurt. The running insult of late being that the reason they got those sorts of powers is because they weren’t smart enough to imagine anything better. In truth, Chloe’s powers were more complex and nuanced than she gave herself credit for, but I was aiming for the opposite of reassuring her. “Even if you could, you can’t lie to my sense of smell. And even if you beat that… I don’t sleep. It’s one of my powers.”

ShockRealization SurrenderStupid. Chloe looked away from me. “Oh.”

About fucking time. I’m sorry. I took a step forward, then stopped myself before I did something stupid like beg her forgiveness. “You’re worse than my father!” A handful more spikes sprouted from my armor with my next step toward them. They’re the fucking enemy, I can’t let myself hold back for a moment. “At least when he used me, it was honest!”

HorrorDisgustHate. Chloe looked back at me, her eyes wide. Her hands, still covered in swamp muck, covered her mouth. “Oh, god. We… we didn’t know…” Streaks of tears glowing hot enough to burn streaked down her cheeks, taking the mud with them. “We never realized.”

HurtBetrayedAnger. Domenic moved forward as well, his armor shaped for war. If his will was like that when I sparred with him, I might not have been able to wrest control of his armor. “Why are you saying this?”

“Because I can!” Everything was so much clearer, now. “I finally can! Now that you hate yourselves, I can hate you, too!” I could see my chains, the ones I allowed myself to forget. I should run. I can get out of range, escape, find Cora, revive Hunter/Killer. She’ll still be stronger than me. I took a breath, and faced down my Pairbonds. “You don’t know how hard it is to think, with the two of you in my mind all the fucking time! If I say the wrong thing, remind you of what I’ve done… then you… you’ll hate me… and… and it hurts.”

My eyes and chest burned. I’m crying. Why am I crying? I pushed enough lightning to my skin to boil the tears away, rather than acknowledge them with a brush of my fingers. Not that I could come up with anything else to do with my body. I never felt so helpless before in my life, not even… not even him.

UnderstandingRegret GuiltSupport. Two sets of arms wrapped around me while I stood there. Domenic in front, tall enough that my face rested in his chest. It shouldn’t feel this good.

Chloe opted to hold me from behind, her arms around my stomach rather than touching Domenic like I’d have expected.

“Why?” I don’t know who I addressed the question to. Either of them, myself, all three, or the uncaring universe which surrounded us. I expected none would have an acceptable answer.

“You came with us, you saved our lives,” Chloe whispered in my ear. It was one of the best things I’d ever experienced. ComfortProtectCare. “Isn’t that enough?”

It’s not, it shouldn’t be, I don’t understand. “No.”

RealizationResponsibility. “That’s why we’ve been having such trouble with our Pairbond, isn’t it,” Domenic said. He tried to make it sound like a question, but every word made him more certain he’d found the truth. “We were taking care of ourselves, but forgot you are part of this as well. The aggressiveness, the mood swings, that was our fault for ignoring you.”

AgreementCertainty. “It makes sense,” Chloe said. LoveAdmiration. Now she was looking up at Domenic, though still held me. I felt myself losing grip on the anger; even the jealousy was breaking apart. “That’s why things were different for both of us when the other wasn’t there, right? That’s when we couldn’t ignore your contribution to the link.”

Stay angry. I tried to force myself to get mad, but I was so tired of fighting. I couldn’t bring myself to hate; I don’t even know how I found the strength to nod.

Domenic leaned down, so his mouth brushed the top of my head. It was he who spoke for them, for us. “I swear, we’ll try harder from now on.” AgreementSupportLove. “From now on, we’ll make sure your taken care of, too.”

My skin felt warm as I allowed myself to enjoy the pressure of the pair around me. Heh. I tilted my head up so I could look into Domenic’s eyes. Even without our Pairbond I would know to trust him by his eyes. They do care about me. That didn’t mean I would let them off the hook entirely, however. I moved back just a little more, so my head was leaning back on Chloe’s shoulder.

My smile was for Domenic, but the breathy whisper was in Chloe’s ear. “So, which one of you volunteered to take care of my needs?”

ShockUncertain DisturbedHesitation. “Uh, umm,” Domenic stammered. InsecureJealousy. “You’re still too young for… that.”

An undercurrent of desire was there as well, so faint I wondered if even they noticed it. I found myself smiling, for no good reason. “Cowards.” They care about me, it would be so easy to let them. I’m safe, I can finally allow myself to rest. I closed my eyes.

“Cecelia?” I felt my shoulder being nudged. My eyes snapped open, I was in Domenic’s lap, and Chloe was driving his truck. “I’m sorry, but it’s time to wake up.”

“What” I looked around, then realized we were pulling into Dom’s driveway. At some point, Domenic must have removed our armor as well. “What happened.”

AmusedCaring. Domenic brushed some loose hair out of my face. “You went to sleep, right after saying you didn’t have to. We decided not to wake you. Feeling better?”

“I… yeah…” In fact, I couldn’t remember ever feeling better. “Guess there’s more to my power than I thought.”

“I stashed a couple spare mattresses in the garage, so you girls can stay the night there,” Domenic said. “That way you can retrieve what’s left of my body after Nanna gets done with me. With any luck, the hospital will call soon to tell us Bea is alright, and she won’t ask too many difficult questions.” DoubtConsternation.

SupportLove. Chloe reached over, setting her hand on Domenic’s lap. I noted how she didn’t pull her hand away where her fingers brushed my leg. I might have been imagining it, but it seemed she pushed her hand up against me more than necessary. “Don’t worry, we’re there for you. For each other.”

ReliefStrength. His hand went over hers, and also brushed against me. “Yeah, I know.”

I really need something to punch. Or fuck. Or both. “Great. I think I need to get some more sleep.”

I opened the door for Domenic, then climbed out. I considered making him carry me, but his legs were half asleep as it was. I promised myself I’d do it some other day, just to see how they reacted. I led the way to the garage, watching the mess of possible fates for ones where we were caught. No sense in getting busted so close to the finish line.

Domenic opened the door. ConfusionReliefSuspicion.

“Hey bro,” Beatrice’s voice said from inside the garage. I took the opportunity to peak in the doorway.  She sat in Dom’s computer chair, wearing one of his spare sets of sunglasses. She had her finger sitting on them, right between her eyes.

UncertainThreat. “Bea? Is that really you?”

I dipped into the Fate-threads, but if she was a fake, she was a good one. I looked for signs of violence, but they were amongst the least possible threads. Still, that wouldn’t rule out a competent Infiltrator.

“Oh, it’s me, and then some. Remember when we talked about what I’d do first if I ever got powers?” With a gesture, she slid the glasses down the bridge of her nose. Deep green light radiated from her eyes. “So much better than yours.”



12 thoughts on “Price Threefold, Chapter 27- Cecelia

  1. A/N- This chapter, and the reveals therein, were why I chose not to do Cecelia chapters. The plan, the payoff, was in the symbolism of it “not really being her, so I can’t do chapters with her name”. I still think it was a good idea, but not good enough to justify the damage I wound up doing to the rest of the story (see the earlier announcement). Take all conversation to that effect there, for ease of reference.

    This chapter, however? As a stand alone? I think this chapter is everything I wanted it to be and then some. The sheer creepy factor of the Pairbonds stripped bare and laid out for all to see, the final reveal with Beatrice… I love what I’ve done here. I just wish I built a better monument for it to sit upon.

    Also: when I promised a *Greenwitch* chapter… I never said anything about Granny. I am well and truly shocked nobody guessed this was coming.

    And… I know it’s rich, given that I just admitted I suck and have to gut and rebuild this whole novel, but… vote for me, anyway?


    1. He was used to the pacing of his other book Blue steel. It was a good read, but he doesn’t like the way he did it, I think. Thats what I got from his review on the matter

      Liked by 1 person

    2. That’s sweet, but truth is I butchered the buildup and delivery of a very important aspect of the story, and failed to do a critical character proper justice in hopes of making a cool idea pay off. The idea was not nearly cool enough to make up for weakening the rest of the story as much as I did.


  2. This chapter was great Tananari. I really enjoyed all of the build up and pay off that came from it. The pairbond is probably one of the scariest things I’ve ever heard of. People in universe talk about how mind control powers are so scary, and yet the pairbond is that but so much worse. It is addictive, insidious, can change how you think and feel, and being aware of it does nothing to prevent it from affecting you. Seeing it at its height in this chapter was as fascinating as it was disturbing. Like a slow motion, head on collision where the drivers are all smiling.

    Bea being the new Greenwitch is really interesting. I wonder if there is any remnant of the previous one in there, or if she will have a similar powerset. My guess would be that Granny infected Bea to both force her to gain powers, and probably made the poison have enough of her biosignature that when Bea did gain powers they pinged off of Granny and influenced her. If that is right, if Bea ever figures out what happens she can make jokes about how she got her powers from having the Greenwitch inside of her. She would probably get a kick out of Dom’s face when she said it.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I get it now! She was looking for a successor. She mentioned back in book 1 that the Greenwitch was starting to take over Granny, so maybe she thought it was time. It explains why she went out of her way to mess with Adam when she usually stayed in her swamp. And when she used her last skullamadoodle, she was getting her affairs in order. Last time they visited, Granny Greenwitch said that Dom would bring Bea willingly. I don’t remember the exact words, but what if instead of “you’ll bring her to Granny,” she said “you’ll give her to the Greenwitch?”
    I didn’t make the connection earlier, but Granny talks about the Greenwitch the same was Shannon talks about the Lynx. Is it possible that there’s been a line of Greenwitches?

    Other than that, this chapter was great. Cecelia and Spark are so different, it makes me wonder how Chloe and Dom are affected. It also explains why Heritage’s views are so half-hearted and nonsensical.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Fair point. More nonsensical than usual, then. For a while, I couldn’t figure out what the point of Heritage was. For hate groups like the KKK, WBC, even ISIS, the main message always comes off as “we have to protect ourselves at any cost.” In comparison, Hetitage’s “send them all back to Africa” crap felt mild, even juvenile. And for Quash’s character, something asinine like that felt believable. I just couldn’t believe that Amanda would actually buy something so illogical; she came across as more intellectual and level-headed than her husband. But Pairbond freakiness explains it perfectly. If one racist person and one neutral person had to blend their ideals, this seems like the type of forced, awkward compromise that would result.

        This may be waaaay off base, but I think I have some idea of what happened now: Quash and Amanda met in college or something and immediately Pairbonded. Quash was probably the bigoted one. He’s the one who’s actively hostile, using racial slurs. He’s the public face of Heritage. He was personally offended that his daughter teamed up with a black man. Amanda, on the other hand, probably wasn’t all that prejudiced before meeting Quash. She helped Heritage more in a supporting role, rather than publicly. She seemed to be doing it more to support her husband than because she believed in his cause, and maybe because it put her in a position of power and influence. She wasn’t happy that Chloe was staying with Dom either, but it felt more personal with her, like she was upset that Dom was keeping Chloe from her family rather than anything else. At worst, she was uncomfortable that Dom was black.

        Again, just wild speculation based on vague clues. This may be super off. But trying to find out what characters are thinking, why they do what they do, is the most interesting and fun part for me.

        … I feel strangely dirty after writing this. Racism makes me feel gross.


        1. Pretty spot on, though a bit more complex than what you’re guessing at. Mainly because you’re not applying the lessons of what powers imply about personality.

          Namely: Quash isn’t so much racist as he is someone who really likes to have control over a situation. Don’t get me wrong- he picked up more than a few bad habits while working his way to the top- but he joined the ideology for the discipline, order and control it offers more than anything else. His core nature gave Quash control over one of the most constant forces any human ever experiences, letting him bring people to their knees or destroy them outright, while he walks freely through the same field… which should say everything about who he is.

          His wife, the opposite: she reveled in the chaos and unpredictability of her power. She got a power that blinds everyone, herself included, and then manipulates luck, which modern science has more or less proven isn’t a real thing.

          Together, they started a scheme to take control of the law, the underworld, and the business world all at the same time. Which satisfied both their needs, since Amanda likes stacking the deck in her favor. But in the end, their negative opinion of minorities mainly revolves around percieved lack of discipline or willingness to work to better themselves, and thus (far as they’re concerned) lack of morality.

          Real irony is how Chloe’s parents mirror Domenic and Cecelia’s own personalities and powersets. Domenic, too, values discipline and control- he’s just not as inclined toward personal glory, and more inclined toward building a lasting legacy. He got the power to manipulate steel, yet another powerful constant in the experiences of human beings, the one which holds up all our greatest structures and makes up all our strongest tools. But in the end, both men have more in common than they have different.

          … Chloe has some serious issues…


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