I woke to metal clanging against metal in the garage, along with shouting. “Hey, dickbreath! Rise and sh- gah!”
I was on my feet, my blanket falling around me as I shaped my metal into a naginata, then brought it toward the source of the noise. Next, I’d get the armor up, but if training with Cecelia had taught me anything: offense came first. “Beatrice?! The hell!”
My sister there like a dear in the headlights, the sword-tip of the weapon inches from her face. My bisected blanket drifted in two directions away from us. For a long minute, the only sound to be heard was the echo of the pair of cooking pots she’d dropped on the concrete floor of the garage. I withdrew the weapon, adding it to the armor that I now wanted for modesty’s sake.
“Holy shit, Domenic!” No longer faced with imminent impalement, Bea started to breathe again. She even managed a smile that would have fooled anyone other than me or Nanna. “You know, most people come back from vacation relaxed, not sleeping with weapons.”
“Let’s just say it was a working vacation.” I couldn’t explain to her that my metal still held a charge from Chloe and Cecelia, a comfort I’d gone weeks savoring every night while I slept. Being this far from them had me jumpy and irritable, though some of that may have been from the poor quality of sleep. “Got used to sleeping in costume. More comfortable.”
“Well, maybe you should get un-used to it.” Bea let her eyes run across the armor. “Nanna sees you like that, and she’ll either kill you, or have a heart attack, die, and then kill you. You know how she feels about powers.”
I loved my grandmother, but the time she came from had a lot of ideas about acceptable behavior. At least with powers, there was the justification that they were a choice, rather than accidents of birth. “Nanna knocks before walking into my room.” Speaking of. “How did hell did you get in here, anyway? I locked the door!”
“Well, Ty’s still wasting all his money on his car.” I suspected that Chloe giving a literal curb-stomp to one of his loser friends had more to do with it than the car. I would not have been surprised if the phrase ‘bros before hos’ was used. “And it’s hard to get a date when you’re a gimp.” She held up her hand, still in bandages. “So I learned lock picking.”
Cecelia did say Bea’s body language suggested she wasn’t as hurt as we thought. I went fishing for a shirt while talking to Bea. “Lock picking? With one hand?”
She shrugged, and somehow her smile got even more smug. “Okay, you caught me. I went through Nanna’s spare keys ’till I found the one for the garage. Pfft. Lockpicking, like I got time for dat shit.”
“You got a point, or you just here to annoy me until I go away another week to get away from you?” Harsh words aside, I suspected there was more to Bea’s visit than just to annoy me. If for no other reason than it was too early in the morning for her to get out of bed on her own.
“Oh, right, I almost forgot!” My prevaricating sister turned back to the door. “I have extra special news to share, but Nanna wants to talk to you first, so it’ll have to wait so you’re not distracted.”
You bitch. “Right, like I won’t be distracted now that you said that.” I pulled a shirt on over my metal, and only then allowed it to slide off my body to its hiding place under my bed.
“Perks of being a little sister.” The garage door closed before I could retort.
I made my way into the house, where the sound of the morning weather report guided me to Nanna. “Hello, Nanna, I’m home.” Bea had vanished, no doubt to some convenient place to eavesdrop on the conversation.
With some effort, Nanna managed to get to her feet. “Didya have fun on yer little vacation? You were s’pose to be home yesterday.”
Oh, she’s pissed. “Sorry, there were some delays, so I got home late. But it was a working vacation, and I got a good part time job out of it.”
Nanna’s eyes narrowed. “A job, huh? Doin’ what? ‘Cause if’n yer into drugs, I-”
“No!” I brought my hands up. “You know I’d never do that! It’s nothing illegal, just picking up scrap for people.” Can’t believe I just called historical artifacts scrap. “The hours are weird, but the pay is good. I was thinkin’ I could pay my own senior year, since I’ll have the money. I don’t like feeling like a freeloader.”
Nanna kept her eyes locked on mine, as if she was searching for the truth inside my head. After a short eternity, her face softened. “Well, at least yer not a layabout bum.” She turned her head to the downstairs bathroom door. “The way your sister is.”
Bea stepped out, her smile a little more forced than usual. “Still a gimp, remember? I can only think of two jobs I can do with one hand.”
“Keep talkin’ like that, an’ ah’ll break more than yer hand.” Nanna turned back to her television. “An’ if’n you plan to loaf about all summer, ah’ll find work for you to do.”
For my part, I edged closer to my sister. “Seriously? You had to say that to Nanna? Are you trying to get yourself disowned?”
“Nanna wouldn’t do that, and you have other things to worry about.” She lifted up a newspaper, holding it right in front of my face. “Your girlfriend has a girlfriend.”
My reflex to tell my sister Chloe was not my girlfriend died before spoken, given that she was my girlfriend in name and most deeds at this point. Any other argument was silent by a headline reading ‘electrifying new hero team’, with a picture of Chloe and Cecelia locking lips beneath it. I pulled the paper out of Bea’s hands so fast that the edges tore.
“The f-” I stopped myself, glanced at Nanna, then went back to the paper.
-now calling herself Plasma, in her first appearance since the conflict with Hunter/Killer which ravaged our city just over a month ago. ‘We (referring to her partner, Damascus- whom she claims will now be calling himself Ballast) were so new we didn’t even have real names picked out yet. (She laughed). After, we just wanted to get our bearings, take a little vacation. So we went on a sort of treasure hunting cruise.’ At which point her new partner, Spark, claimed ‘we got to know each other during the cruise and, well, one thing led to another.’
So the interview went, snippets highlighting the team, mentioning the Last Horizon and how Captain Cline was a well known marine archaeologist. More of the story focused on the ‘lesbian’ thing than the other details, including the estimated half million dollars in drugs in some farmhouse they led the police to.
“What’s the big deal, bro?” Meanwhile, Beatrice was her usual sadistic self. “Chloe’s not your real girlfriend, so you don’t care if she goes hunting treasure in Spark’s hidden cave, right? She can strap on her swimming goggles, grab her suspiciously phallic snorkel, and jumps right down into spelunking that damp, cramped passage.”
“Go to hell, Bea.” I turned away from my sister, if only to avoid letting her see me cry. The sunglasses helped.
“Hey, don’t you go blaming me for this. I ain’t the one-” Whatever stupid gloating my sister was about to indulge herself in ended with the slamming of the front door. I had more important shit to worry about right now.
I wish I could say I peeled out of the driveway, but that would imply my truck could spin its tires. The lack of satisfactory squealing aside, I drove off pissed. I thought she loved me, and then she pulls this bullshit?
Honking and a shout from a less than happy neighbor alerted me to the stop sign I just ran. Fuck, what if I-. My mind went to the metal lining hidden in my vehicle, which rendered my truck near bullet proof, but would be impossible to explain to the police. I took slow breaths, forcing myself to calm as best I could and defaulting to my more analytical mindset. I’ll only get answers if I make it to Chloe in one piece.
The drive to the secret base felt like it took days, but in truth I was putting my truck into four wheel drive mode in around twenty minutes.
SurpriseRecognition JoyWorry. The combined emotions of Cecelia and Chloe which washed over me felt more like coming home than returning to my actual house after a week at sea had.
I parked my vehicle even as the hidden hatch popped open. ConcernConfusion. “Dom?” She didn’t try to hide her worry, not that such a thing would be possible in the first place. “What’s wrong?”
Unwilling to trust my voice, I tossed the balled up newspaper at her.
She unfurled it. RealizationRegret. Her head snapped back up, and her lip trembled in that special way which I’d always found cute up until now. “Dom… I’m sorry, I wanted to explain before-”
“Well, you can explain now.” I’d love to hear how you could betray me like that, with her of all people.
ExasperationImpatience. Cecelia stuck her head out from the hole. I noted she was wearing Asian features this time around. “Oh for fuck’s sake, like I told her,” Cecelia gestured at Chloe. “It was just a stunt for the cameras.”
I glanced back and forth at the girls. “So there’s nothing…” sexual “going on between between you?”
“Of course not!” Chloe took a step toward me, as if to hug me. HesitationSecret. She glanced back at Cecelia for a moment. “I didn’t even know she was going to do it until after it happened! And then we had a reporter watching everything we did, so I couldn’t say anything without it being all over the news. I wanted to call you, but I didn’t want to wake up your grandmother. Too many questions we couldn’t answer.”
Considering Nanna’s reaction would have involved waterboarding, that was for the best. “What were you doing out, anyway?” Unable to continue the current track of the argument, I switched to another. “We were supposed to take it slow.”
GuiltStupid. “After we did all the team paperwork, we had nothing to do but go home. Then Cecelia saw a chance and we went for it.”
NecessaryPragmatism. “It was an easy mark.” Cecelia began climbing out of the tunnel. “Just some petty thugs watching over the stash. No Imbued, and even if there were, we’re way out of their league.” ContemptConfidence. She leaned against one of the trees, toying with the steel hunting knife she’d shaped by piggybacking on my power. “You of all people know we don’t have a choice but to trade blows with Heritage. Hiding makes us look weak. We have to hit first, bloody their noses, and show them we can finish any war they start.”
Cecelia had a point; there was too much history, heritage, for us to hope we could settle down to peaceful coexistence. In part because Chloe wouldn’t stand back and do nothing, in part because her father wanted me dead, and in part because the idea of letting them get off the hook filled me with disgust. “Still should have waited to talk to me first. And a public makeout session?”
GuiltDefensive. “It was just that one kiss.” Choe said. “Nothing happened after the picture, and nothing’s going to.”
“Look, we were planning for Plasma to go public as gay anyway, right?” Cecela crossed her arms. FrustrationFear. “We wanted to be on the news, and we wanted it fast enough and notable enough to stop people from suspecting who I am. Well, now we’ve got an attention grabbing photo on the front page which shows why I’m here. Everyone loves a good” ContemptAnnoyance “love story, right? You play Chloe’s beard and I’ll play Plasma’s.”
“My parents knew I wasn’t straight. We never talked about it, but…” HumiliationDisgust “Well, Mom figured it out, and she wouldn’t have hid something like that from Dad.” GuiltHate. “It wasn’t my idea, but it’s still a good one.”
Much as I hated to admit it, the logic was sound. It was an excellent set of smokescreens for everyone save Beatrice, who knew more of the picture than anyone else. Her, I’d need to find some other way to deal with. More important, the racist asshole won’t think I’m sleeping with his daughter. A certain, vindictive, part of me I liked to pretend didn’t exist would have loved to rub that twist in his face, but my family’s safety took priority.
“Well, there’s nothing to be done about it now, anyway.” Easiest way is to walk away. “So, since you got the opening move done before I got here, what’s left to do?”
ReliefComfort. Chloe gave me a hug that didn’t last close to long enough for my preference. “Well, you still have to do your name change and register as part of our team with the PREP office. But let’s go have breakfast first. Cecelia and I have a bunch of ideas we want to try out.”
Her mention of food reminded me that I skipped supper last night, and in my haste hadn’t eaten this morning. “That sounds good, actually.”
Cecelia jumped down, so I took a moment to give Chloe a soft, slow kiss. LoveDesireGlad. She lifted us into the air so I could descend without the need to climb down the rungs. I held tighter against her through the shaft, ignoring my fear in favor of the beautiful girl who had me in her arms.
The smell of some unfamiliar meat wafted up the tunnel. It was clear she’d found something other than wild boar in the woods. Whatever it was, my body had judged it was going to be delicious. “So, what’s breakfast this time around?”
“Squirrel,” Chloe said. “Cecelia went out and caught a few.”
“You mean with a snare or something?”
Cecelia’s voice echoed up the tunnel. “Bare hands. They’re fast, but I’m faster.”