Only after landing near Dom’s car did he and Chloe look back at the mess we left behind. HorrorRegretGuilt. “God. What have I done?”
Chloe took the opportunity to give him a hug. I ignored them in favor of stretching my arms out. “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 pressed my thumbs into areas where the Greenwitch’s power sliced me open just a few minutes ago. The worst of it was healed, but each poke was a fresh reminder that I came within moments of death. I would have died, if not for the shared power from Dom and Chloe. I never felt so alive.
I looked over to where the source of my survival were clinging to each other like the ending of some stupid romance movie. Someone needs to pick up a dictionary and explain to that girl what a lesbian is. Still, it was kinda hot, and the fight had my blood pumping. I’m sick of pretending I don’t know, anyway.
I looked at the swiss cheese that was what was left of my costume; it didn’t cover much, after what it went through. Perfect. I added a cleavage window, which was the best window. Some day, I would find the whining assholes who made it go out of style, then give them something real to cry about.
I lost track of that thought when I turned my Fate-sight at the rippling field of death created by the Greenwitch. 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.
Before, I would have called that impossible, but my power believed 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 couldn’t trust my power, but it insisted she was dead and gone. That was half the tangle of Fates I could see.
The other half, I was almost blind to. That is where other Espers are watching, trying to figure out what happened here. Especially weird were the Espers watching from the future, leaving footprints in the past which played havoc on my power. Well, at least if they’re screwing with each other as bad as me.
I guessed all these other Espers worked for the government. Whomever it was, whatever they did, they had the power of numbers on their side.
No special threat loomed over us, and the poison was Fated to stay in place. I walked over to my team. “Don’t worry, there’s nothing in it that’ll spread or anything. We’re safe, but we should get outta here before anyone else 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, but then realized 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 patching all the battle damage. “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 brilliant, smart and able to keep a cool head in a fight that let him do a lot more with his power than I could have if I had it. I loved it when he took charge and got shit done, so I could do what I was best at. Then there were times when he became just another blubbering idiot ruled by emotions.
Guess I’ll make him feel better. “Well, from this distance, I can’t be sure.” Making someone feel better when you couldn’t lie was a pain in the ass. I looked back toward home, more or less, in the process twisting my back into a pose which let them check out my whole figure through the aluminum-thin armor I had left. “We destroyed the witch’s backup.” Unless she’s even more scary than we thought she was. “Your sister’s safe, now, and that means we ganked Granny, right?”
RevulsionGuilt. Wait, that’s the opposite of what I wanted. Where’s the security, the 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 win 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 across my armor; power I had thought exhausted roared to the surface, no doubt doing damage 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 witch was right, I had been bound, but not anymore. HorrorDefend. “I was good at it! It felt great, 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 couldn’t force myself to kill 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 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 more of her power than my own right now. I altered my power some, just enough that the biting pain of electricity slid across my skin to remind me she was my 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! I was the best!” Cora was better. I haven’t thought of her in months. “Now I’m 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. I’m not jealous. “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. That insult to her intelligence was the best weapon I had against her. “You know you can’t lie to me, why try? 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. The thin metal tore where I shifted the mass.
They’re the fucking enemy, I can’t let myself hold back for a moment. If I do, it’s all over. “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 set paper on fire ran down her cheeps, cleaning away mud. “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 would not have been able to wrest control of his armor. “Why are you saying this?”
“Because I can!” Everything is so clear, 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 the question was meant for. Either of them, myself, all three of us, or the uncaring universe itself. Nothing answered it.
“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 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. Here, in their arms, I lost the will to fight again. “That’s why things are so different when one of us isn’t there, right? That’s when we couldn’t ignore you as part of the link.”
Stay angry. I tried to force myself to get mad, but I was so tired of fighting. I couldn’t force myself to hate; I don’t 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 you’re 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 solid silver 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. 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 are going 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 will 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. “What happened?” At some point, Domenic must have taken away our armor.
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…” I couldn’t remember ever feeling better in my life. “Guess there’s more to my power than I thought.”
“I stashed a spare mattress in the garage, so you girls can stay the night there,” Domenic said. “Tomorrow, you can retrieve what’s left of my body after Nanna gets done. With any luck, the hospital will call soon to tell us Bea is alright and she won’t ask too many difficult questions. Maybe they already called.” 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. “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 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. 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 to the garage. ConfusionReliefSuspicion.
“Hey bro,” Beatrice’s voice said. 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. It wasn’t a guarantee, but she didn’t seem like an 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.”