police spokesman assured the public that while the cause is still under investigation, this incident was Imbued on Imbued violence involving the fugitives wanted for the murders of Starfall, and at least twelve others in the Raleigh region. These events were the culmination of a night long battle with a rare alliance between heroes and villains to seek out the alleged serial killers for capture.
Capture, huh? Funny, I don’t remember much said about capturing them. I stood in the doorway, listening to the television as I prepared to face Nanna.
I looked at the stairs on the other side of the living room. Without some sort of invisibility, there was no way to sneak from the door to the stairs without being seen. Damn. I may have to break her television to get her to stop watching. I wonder if Cecelia or Chloe could pull off some kind of EMP based attack. Even if they could, there was no I could go back and discuss the plan with them, so I dismissed that option as moot.
Well, the longer I delay, the worse it gets. I took a step into the living room. “Nanna?”
“Domenic!” Nanna climbed to her feet faster than I than I thought she could, given her age. Tears ran from her eyes, something I’d only seen when Mom died. While she’d cried some other times, it was rare and she always did her best to hide it from us kid. “Where’s you been? We worried ourselves sick, thought you was out there in that!” She gestured at the screen, now showing the rubble that was our final battlefield last night “Do you have any idea how dangerous it is out there!”
“I’m sorry.” Trust me, Nanna, no one knows how dangerous it was better than I do. Part of me wanted to slip my glasses off, to come clean and tell her the truth. The smarter part knew that would accomplish nothing save make Nanna miserable and guarantee she’d never trust me again. “Chloe needed my help, and I couldn’t leave her out there alone.” That much was true, but what came next was a damn, dirty lie. “I kept to the main roads, as far away as possible from the danger areas.”
reports that one of the serial killers was caught in the explosion which destroyed the plant remain unconfirmed while the manhunt continues for the other fugitive. Local residents are advised to stay in well lit areas and keep in regular contact with others at a distance. The police superintendent asks that if you see anyone walking or a vehicle on the side of the road, please contact the authorities to help, rather than put yourselves at risk.
Nanna glared at me, as if she was extracting my lies from my brain, turning them over in her head, and deciding what kind of punishment waited for me. “An’ what was that girl doin’ out there?”
Oh, right, somehow I forgot she’d ask that question. I took a slow breath. “Difficult circumstances, unfortunate decision making, and terrible timing.” At least half of which was as much my fault as Chloe’s. I took a few steps toward the kitchen. While the position of Nanna’s chair and the television made it impossible to cross the living room without being seen, luring Nanna into looking at the door to the kitchen, would be better than nothing.
“So it is her fault you was out there!” I stopped in my tracks; now was not the time to retreat, desperate though I was to do so. If I ran now, Chloe sneaking into the house would be the least of our concerns.
I turned to face Nanna again, but couldn’t meet her eyes. I was about to exploit some deep, painful history for Chloe’s benefit. “You know how hard it was for us when Mom died. Chloe’s going through the same thing. The difference is that we have you to help us, and without me, she has nobody.” I don’t know how I got through that trite garbage without dying of shame.
We stood there in silence, while my problems went through my mind. I still needed to get Nanna out of the room, I wondered if she would call me out on how stupid I sounded, I worried about Bea, Chloe and Cecelia left alone together. Of all my problems, that was the most pressing concern, and even then there were so many possible scenarios where it all came crashing down that I couldn’t decide which would be worst.
After what felt like an eternity, Nanna broke the silence. “Hmmph, an’ that she’s a teen girl an’ yer a teen boy ain’t got nothin’ to do with it?”
“I’d be lying if I said it has nothing to do with it.” If you keep the small rules, you can break the big ones. I wasn’t sure what it said about me that I quoted 1984 in my head when deceiving my grandmother, but I had other priorities to consider at the moment. “But those feelings are secondary, we need her help as well.” I made a show of looking up at the stairs, then over to the door, then dropped my voice. “Can we go in the kitchen?”
I went for the doorway before Nanna had a chance to object, then stood at the far end of the room so Nanna could not watch both me and the door. I would have liked to lure her to a spot where she couldn’t see the living room at all, but she chose the nearest seat to the door as she always did. I sat down after her, then folded my left hand over my right on the table. “I know we’re having financial problems.”
Her back straightened, and for a moment I thought she might stand up and storm off. “We ain’t-”
Who’s lying, now? “I saw the mortgage papers, and Bea’s expenses.” Grounded for life in three, two, one… “I may have went into your room and looked through your paperwork.”
Nanna’s hands began to shake. “You don’t pay no mind to that.” I had expected her to shout, but her voice came out barely above a whisper. “It’s mah problem, an’ no business of yours.”
“Bea’s future ain’t my business?” She wouldn’t have accepted my help for her sake, and I had too much pride to beg for myself. Beatrice was an excuse I could use, and Nanna would have little choice but accept. “An’ that’s where Chloe comes in.”
Nanna gripped the table, a stern glare in her eyes. “When ah said I ain’t raisin’ no charity case, it was ’cause ah didn’t think I had to tell ya I ain’t raisin’ no hustler, either.”
Open mouth, insert foot, maybe step in dog crap first for good measure. “Nothing like that!” On the plus side, Beatrice and Chloe chose now to sneak in the door. There was no chance Nanna would notice them. The possibility they’d witness my death, however, was climbing by the second. “Chloe comes from a family with a lot of money, and rich families know other rich families. People with influence, who are willing to do favors that are small to them, and mean everything to us.”
If anything, Nanna looked even more pissed than before I tried to explain myself. “Like. What?”
I took a breath, trying to collect my thoughts. Knowing Chloe was inside was a relief balanced by the fact that Cecelia was now out of our sight. I had to trust Chloe’s connection to her would be warning enough if she tried to pull something.
“She already helped me find an odd summer job that pays better than some fast food joint.” Not quite true, but I planned to fake it with the money I made on my gun bounty, and there was no reason I couldn’t do that a few more times over the summer. “In the long term, well, if the right person gives me a letter of recommendation to the right school, and it could save me tens of thousands in student loans.”
Nanna’s face softened, though that was a relative term given she still looked an awful lot like an angry nun. “That don’t sound better’n handouts ta me.”
I sat there for a minute before I gave up on my hopes of explaining to my grandmother that there was a difference between hand out and hand up. I also considered and rejected some circuitous argument it would be Chloe’s way of repaying us for helping her. “If that’s a handout, then so be it. I ain’t got got so much pride that I won’t beg if that’s what it takes to help my family. If charity’s the only thing that keeps Bea dry, fed, and going to a good school, then I’ll take charity.”
To my surprise, a ghost of a smile formed at the edges of Nanna’s mouth. “Gettin’ more like yer grandfather every day. Ya missed yer callin’, not goin’ to the church.”
“Well, I’ve still got a year to change my mind, right?” It was simpler to put it off rather explain to Nanna why I had no intention of following Grandpa’s footsteps. I wanted her in the best mood possible for when she talked to Chloe later. At the same time, joining the clergy was far less outlandish than harboring a fugitive serial killer in my garage, and yet Cecelia was out there.
I slid away from the table. “For now, I’ll keep helping people in my own way. That means Bea and Chloe” and you, and Cecelia it seems. “They’re trouble enough for the time being. Everything else can wait.”
“Ah guess so.” Nanna worked herself to her feet, then went back to watching the news. From what I could tell, they’d grown bored with murder and were now on the subject of another predicted heat wave and were talking about the dangers of extreme heat and where the city would have cooling stations.
It took some time to find a balance which resulted in eating enough for myself, and sneaking out enough extra to feed Cecelia. The PB&J sandwich I carried out was something Nanna would let go without suspicion, while the three others I had in a plastic baggie under my shirt would raise questions.
I let out a breath I hadn’t realized I was holding when I stepped into the garage to find Cecelia leaning against the wall. She raised an eyebrow. “Still worried I’m going to run?”
No sense in trying to deny it. “I guess I’m better at the talk than the walk.” I took the bag out from under my shirt and offered it to her. “I got you something to eat.”
She accepted the bag, but set it aside. “Chloe thinks she’s in the clear. She’s worried she can’t feel you.”
Right. I stepped toward the metal when it responded to my thoughts despite the distance. SurpriseCuriosity RecognitionRelief. I stopped for a second as I bid my metal shape itself at range. “Looks like your power does more to mine than I thought.”
Cecelia moved a little closer to me than necessary. “That is exciting. In fact, I think there’s a lot we’ll be able to do for each other if put our heads together.” I tried to say something, but she kept going. “We’ll do some vigorous testing later, I’m sure.”
I took a step back, as she took another forward. Is she coming on to me, or is it in my imagination? UncertaintyConcern. I decided the safest response was to interpret it as an innocent statement, but leave myself an escape route. “Yeah, that’ll be good. I know Chloe will appreciate it.”
AmusedDisappointed. “I had something else in mind.” I could smell she had some sort of soft perfume on, though I wasn’t able to decide what it was. “I gather you’re having money problems of some sort.”
Wait, what? I need to get my stupid hormones under control. I jumped at the chance to talk about something not sexy before considering what I was talking. “Uh… who told you that?”
She smirked, then shook her head. “It’s kinda obvious. You don’t exactly live in the nicest part of town, and there’s this sense of looming danger that’s not the fear some Esper will figure out who I am. If it’s a loan shark or some sort of protection racket, I bet I can get rid of it.”
Uh. “No, nothing like that. Or, at least, not the illegal version. My sister got into a nasty fight a few weeks ago, and insurance isn’t covering the hospital bills.”
UncertaintyDoubt. “You mean the bandages on her hand? I could have sworn she was was faking the injury.”
I shook my head. “No, very real, we have the x-rays, police reports, and an overnight in the hospital to prove it. It was a small miracle the worst she got was bruises and a broken hand. If they used weapons, she might have died.”
“Huh, her body language seemed healthy. You’re sure?” BizarreIrrelevant. “I guess she was acting odd with Chloe around, and that must’ve thrown my senses off. Speaking of, the two of them have a history, don’t they?” She stopped for a moment. “No, don’t answer that, I know it’s not my business. Umm, and I may have had to flirt with her a little to get rid of her. It worked, but I had to break my promise. Sorry.”
Fuck. “I was afraid of that.” I looked into Cecelia’s eyes; she’d turned them purple, which was as beautiful as it was unrealistic. She even looked worried that I’d get upset at her. “Well, I’m sure you did your best, I know better than anyone that Beatrice isn’t the easiest person to deal with.” ReliefGratitude.
The door opened at that moment. “I got here as fast as I could.” Chloe slammed the door behind her and flew over to us. TerritorialWorry. “Is everything okay?”
I pulled my gaze away from Cecelia’s eyes. “Uh, yeah, she’s catching me up on my sister’s antics.” FrustrationDistaste AlertConfident. Right, Cecelia wants to know about the history between them. She’ll have to ask Chloe if she wants details. “We were also discussing my financial issues.”
Chloe looked down at the floor of the garage. GuiltUncertainty. Dammit, she still blames herself for that, and I made her feel worse. RegretWorriedShameFearRemorseConfusionPanicPain. Oh no, not again! I collapsed forward, toward Chloe. Contact seemed to help last time, and I hoped it would work now as well.
I focused on the same thoughts I had every time I experienced a borderline panic attack from my fear of heights. It’s not real, it’s a false response created by a portion of the brain not working properly. You aren’t in danger, you’re safe, everything is fine. I knew the mantra didn’t quite apply, but I was too busy fighting down an emotional feedback loop the likes of which it was possible nobody had ever experienced to concern myself with applicability.
Minutes which felt like hours later, I got enough control to pay attention to the physical sensations of my body tangled up with two others. It would have been more awkward if it wasn’t so painful. Chloe wound up on the bottom, her body every bit as hard as the concrete floor of the garage, and her arms folded in odd angles that left an elbow pushing deep into my stomach. Cecelia ended up on top, save for one of her legs which seemed to be under Chloe. My arm got pinned between the two girls at some point, and had gone numb at some point.
“Chloe? Chloe? Are you okay?” It was stupid to ask, given her powers, but ask I did.
DazedUncertain. “I… it happened again.”
FrustrationFailure. Cecelia slid off of me, then leaned back so she could pull her leg out. Chloe made it easier for her with some levitation. Now untangled, we all sat on the floor of the garage nursing our various bruises to body and pride.
I looked between the two girls. “We need to figure out whatever causes those, too. If they happen in public, or while driving or flying.” UnderstandingWorry AgreementUncertain.
“It seems to be our emotions,” Chloe said. “My powers are tied to emotion, it might be my fault-” GuiltFailureComfortLoss– A smack rang out. ShockAnger PainSurprise. Chloe brought her hand up to her cheek. “What the hell!”
“You were starting another loop, I broke it.” Cecelia had her right hand resting in her left, and was massaging the palm with her thumb. “I also broke my hand on your face. Ouch.”
I took a breath. “Okay, we know it’s emotional, now.” I looked at Chloe. “You felt bad, I felt bad for making you feel bad.”
“Which made me think of… stuff…” Cecelia added.
“And your feelings made mine worse,” Chloe finished.
“Are we supposed to not feel? Is that how Pairbonds function in society?” I asked because I had no way to know, myself. Up until a couple days ago, I’d only heard the term a few times, and what little I knew came from a single movie that was probably more Hollywood than fact.
RejectionShame “My parents didn’t act like that. They were all…” she paused for a moment. RealizationAnger. “They were happy. All the time. Like, you know a comedian or television personality has an on-stage personality? Well, they never stopped acting like that when the other was in the room. I thought they were, well, borderline creepy levels of in love with each other.” HorrorDisgust. “But what if that’s how they had to act so their Pairbond didn’t do this to them?”
I looked at her, and tried to ignore the loss as I felt her withdrawing from me, from the idea that our feelings were ruled by this outside power. “Maybe, but it sounds like we only have to stay happy. I’m sure that’s not the only way, right? We’ll come up with something that works for us.”
AmusedTeasing. Cecelia leaned forward, and I knew she knew we could see down her shirt. AttractionShameJealousy. “But the other way sounds like so much fun.”