Cecelia was heavier than she looked, almost to the point where I needed to use my power to carry her. She had to be made of pure muscle to have that kind of weight, but I couldn’t help but notice how soft she was, and not for the obvious pervy reasons. The woman was built like an athlete capable of destroying Olympic records; 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. I knew she was Dom’s sister, and I’d respect that for his sake, but I didn’t have to like her.
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; my mother had me studying that alongside martial arts by the time I was ten years old. She knew. She knew one day I’d have powers, and need these skills, and she made sure I had them. No. I’ll deal with that baggage later. For now, I have to save Cecelia. If only I knew how.
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, generating trails of electricity that had nothing to do with our powers. “If you want, I’ll give you more than a look.”
Yuck. I bit down on the part of me that liked the attention just a bit too much, and focused on the… 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, some might say enjoyed, 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 thanks to her control.
She abandoned me in favor of the mercury-like pool of metal, which she plopped down on face first like an oversized bean bag chair. “Well, that was fun.”
Wait. “You’re not…”
AmusementSuccess. She rolled over onto her back, and the metal shifted to keep her from falling off.
“Not what? 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 thanks for caring.” 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? To see if I cared?”
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 he needed my support more than I needed her answers. “Fine, I guess it won’t take too long.”
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; his touch was for me, but his focus was on Cecelia. “Okay, in order: the fuck was that stunt about, what did you do to Ro, and why did you fake an overdose?”
“Ruin my fun, why don’cha?” 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. Besides, we all know drugs don’t mean shit to you. Now stop trying to dodge the question.”
I looked up at him. The fact he caught on when I hadn’t 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. It followed behind her like a dutiful, amorphous pet. “Dom, I’m sure you think you’re the smart one, but Bea’s got the same brains. She already knows. She’s just afraid to admit she knows, 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 to his house. FrustrationLoss. “Your so-called Fate powers tell you that?”
“Common sense,” Cecelia said. “Look, we had one screwup that could have got us all killed yesterday.” All my fault. Domenic’s arm pulled me against him a little harder. Cecelia stopped walking, and the blob went back to wrapping around her feet. “Luck’s the only reason we’re safe right now. We can’t have more people figuring it out.”
ReluctanceUncertainty. “You’re saying that was the only way to make it right?”
“It was the best way.” WorryRegret. Cecelia took a couple more 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.” FrustrationFailure. “I did you a favor!”
“I’m okay with getting hurt,” Domenic said.
Cecelia turned her eyes on me for a moment. RejectionCertain. “Too bad.” I agreed with her on that much, at least. She turned away and crossed her arms, then continued while staring at the wall. “I had make her back off. And I got 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. I need to say something. “You didn’t have to prove anything to us.”
NegationDismissal. “You know I can feel when you’re lying.” RegretShame. Cecelia unfolded her arms, stretched them up, then tilted her head back so she could see us.. “What did you think we’d do when school started? One of you drops out so you’re always 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 eight hours a day? Or do you think we can create a fake ID that gets me in school with you? 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 enough that he might have hurt me if not for my powers. “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 path.”
ChagrinAcceptance. “You’re right, we never would have felt safe leaving you alone any other way.” Domenic extended the hand which wasn’t wrapped around me to Cecelia. She stepped backward, so that he was touching her back. ReliefHappy. “I’m sorry we 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 with Domenic. Or at least that was the story I told myself. “We should have known we could trust you.”
SafeCalm. She turned to face us. “No, you shouldn’t.” 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, but his heart wasn’t in it. 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 Beatrice, on a level that made me more than a little uncomfortable. “Oh, nothing. 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.” DisgustContempt. “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. He’d come around to staying out of it eventually, but for now he wanted to entertain the fantasy of hurting the bastard.
AmusedUnnecessary. Cecelia laughed a little. “Oh, I wouldn’t be too worried. After what I did, he’ll need pills of his own.” She held her hand up, and brought her thumb and pointer up with a small gap, as if holding something small and invisible. Sparks of electricity highlighted her point. “Little blue ones.”
UnderstandingSchadenfreude. Oh, she didn’t. ConfirmationSuperiority. Cecelia managed a real smile for once, and it was cute in a mean way.
Domenic took a breath. ReluctantAcceptance. “Still say he deserved worse, but I guess it’s good enough for now.” ConcernRegret. He looked at me. “That just leaves the crap with Heritage.”
God damn it. Still my fault, guess I should say something. “I wish I had better answers. If it was anyone other than Dad, I might be willing to call the bluff.” Heritage had as much to lose as we did, after all. Quash, as the leader, was culpable of every crime committed by his people; life in prison was the best he could expect. “But this is about Mom, and I know he’d die for her. I’m surprised he bothered with threats, instead of bringing everything down around us.”
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.”
IrritationHate. “Cowards, can’t beat us fair, so they pull this bullshit.” Lightning danced across Cecelia’s skin. I noted how it avoided contact with Domenic, but not with me. Even if subconscious, she’s avoiding hurting him.
“Which means we’ll be helping them, one way or another,” Dom said. “We stop now, people ask why. Plus it makes it more likely that someone offs Quash, same end result. 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 suited for taking down the proverbial big game. Big game which either belonged to Heritage, or belonged to their competition. “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. We can’t quit!”
“It… isn’t a terrible solution.” Domenic, on the other hand, had wanted little else but to quit since I forced him into being a hero in the first place. “We can use… last night… as an excuse, say we want a break. Perhaps even call up those shrinks they recommended for appearances. Let the villains fight each other for a while, maybe until Heritage gets driven out of town, and then take the fight to the invaders.”
Much as it hurt me to give up, it was the best way to protect him 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 for them. “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. An hour of working out and another for sparring, and a third for drills. Every day.”
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; I couldn’t risk something revealing 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 real fights,” Cecelia said. “Won’t be long before someone a lot scarier than Heritage or those other assholes makes a move. And they won’t be holding back.”
RealizationDread. I exchanged a worried glance with Domenic.