Price Nothing Given, Chapter 32

The first thing to come to my mind when I started to wake up was that it was light in my room. The second was that I was sore down there. I sat up in bed and grabbed for my sheets to cover myself.

“Oh god!” I shrieked, the belatedly realized that it was out loud.

Last night’s events came back to me in a rush, including everything that Zach and I did. I can’t believe I did that, any of it. It was almost like I was… drunk.

I had no personal experience with alcohol; I’d been tempted to try once or twice, as most people with depression or anxiety are, but my power was dangerous enough when I was sober. The thought of what might come out of my subconscious while I was intoxicated was enough to keep me far, far away from any mind altering substance.

Still, I knew the effects of alcohol on mind and body. I could dismiss impairment, I was more focused and alert while Sanguinesti was at full power than I had ever been in my life. Although a false sense of power and confidence was not only a symptom of alcohol, it was much of the reason people drank in the first place.

Sanguinesti. At full power. No. My hands shook from how hard I was gripping my blanket. It drains strength off the victim, replenishes my power, a power which is linked to my emotional state. Could it also draw on the personality of the victim?

From what little I knew of Revenant, I would have been surprised to learn he didn’t like to follow up a fight with a… different activity. He did attempt to flirt with Laura even as she threatened to shoot him in the face.

To add humiliation to insult and injury, Zach didn’t even bother staying with me. He used me, then when he didn’t need me anymore he abandoned me just like everyone else in my life. Nobody cares about me when I’m no longer useful.

I wanted to curl up, pull my blanket over my head, and cry until some undetermined time when the shame and frustration had gone, but that would never happen. Besides, I had more pressing biological needs to take care of. Holding a blanket around myself, I went for the bathroom and took care of business. I even took the time to brush my teeth afterward so my mouth no longer tasted as terrible as I felt.

I grabbed my pills out of the cabinet, looked at them for a minute. I have to take them, I made a promise. My hands opened the bottle with muscle memory, while I looked in the mirror. “I’m such a fuck up.” I felt compelled to speak out loud, to hear the disgust in my own voice.

I looked at the pill in my hand. “Turns out, I can replace you. I found a cure” I talked to it like it was an imaginary friend. As if I don’t have enough of those, already. “All I have to do is find happy people. Then murder them.”

The pill offered no opinion on my circumstance, so I tossed it in my mouth and chased it with some water. Then I combed the tangled mop that was my hair. That final distraction taken care of, I left the relative sanctuary of the bathroom, with no more excuses but to face the rest of my fucked up life.

Zach was standing in the main room, near the door, and in costume.

“Oh!” I dropped the blanket I still carried in reflexive surprise.

Zach took a long look while I brought my arms up to cover my chest. It was stupid, since I literally wasn’t showing him anything he hadn’t seen, or for that matter touched, before.

“Well, hello there.” Zach smiled at me. “I was going to wake you up, but I guess that’s not necessary.” His feet shifted, while the silence grew more and more uncomfortable between us. He looked toward the ceiling, perhaps aware that I wasn’t happy with him looking at me.

I knelt down and pulled the blanket back up. It was thick enough to fight off the winter chill, so I had plenty of modesty. “You stayed?”

“Well, yeah. It didn’t seem right to leave. I kinda wanted to be in here when you woke up, but Mrs. Battle…” He glanced at me, and seeing I was covered, he relaxed some. Some being the operative word. “Did I do it wrong? Was I supposed to leave?”

“You didn’t have to if you didn’t want to, I wouldn’t have been upset.” I am such a fucking liar. There is no way he believes what I said. Or maybe he does, he’s as out of his element as I am, maybe even worse. I should ask him, talk to him, explain everything. “So, what did Mrs. Battle want?” Or change the subject to something safe that can’t possibly cause anyone any discomfort, that’s the same thing, right?

“Oh, the usual. Why are you here? Is Beth okay? Incidentally, she’s figured us out.” He shrugged his his right shoulder. “I tried to play like I was only here because of Imbued stuff, but I think I’d be better off trying to sell her oceanfront property in Wyoming. So, yeah, that’s a thing. Sorry.”

Is it too late to get the power to have never existed in the first place? Of course not, that would be far too merciful. “She’d have figured it out sooner or later. That woman was born and raised in the theater, her drama radar is-” I hesitated for a moment. “Not that this is drama! I mean, well…”

“It’s cool, I get what you mean.” I didn’t think he did, but if he was willing to ignore my stupid mouth, I wasn’t going to argue. “Everyone loves poking their noses into a new relationship, it’s a law of nature. Also, that woman terrifies me. You know that whole ‘what are your intentions toward my daughter’ stereotype, with the big redneck stroking a sawed-off shotgun? She managed to condense about half an hour of that into a single ten second stare. It was a thing of terror. And beauty. But mostly terror.”

Relationship? Are we in a relationship now? Is jumping into bed with someone after getting high how I’m starting my first relationship?

I looked at him, really looked. He was tall, attractive, and had enough muscle to make that body suit costume look good. More than that, he had no idea that last night was caused by the newest reason I’d discovered to loath my powers, and he’d be horrified if he found out. I filed that away under things that no living being would ever hear.

“Sorry about that. I’ll ask her not to be too hard on you.” Although my best bet was to avoid her until I figured myself out. She could read Zach like a book after knowing him a month. My thoughts were as good as transcribed on the back of her eyelids.

“Don’t worry too much about it. Her heart’s in the right place, and I know how stubborn old people can be.” For a second, his smile faltered. “Now, the real nightmare is how we keep Laura from finding out.”

Oh. Shit. “If we start now, I’m pretty sure Valkyrie can get us to Europe before running out of energy.”

“That sounds tempting, but Mrs. Battle told me not to take things too fast.” Zach gave me a chance to speak, but I was too busy being stunned by what I implied.

“Also, she told me to give you this.” He held up an overstuffed envelope between his index and middle fingers. I’d seen it earlier, but with all the other concerns it hadn’t registered in my mind. “Said she found it downstairs this morning, no sign of who left it.”

I reached out for it, while he stepped a bit closer. I reached for the paper, more aware than ever that I was wearing nothing more than a blanket right now, a blanket which might fall if I stopped holding it on long enough to fight with an envelope. I drew my hand back. “Uh, maybe you should open it?”

If Zach was disappointed, he did a good job of hiding it. “In case it’s a bomb. Or anthrax. Or an a bomb of anthrax. Bamthrax.”

I grinned. Well, if nothing else, at least he can make me smile. “Does your power work on disease?”

“Dunno, I never get sick.” He tore the top of the letter, then reached in. “Holy shit!” He extracted a sheet of paper, along with a thick stack of off-green paper. “Seriously, there’s like ten grand in hundreds here. If it’s counterfeit, it’s good enough to beat my power.”

I tried not to be upset with him making such a big deal over the money, which wasn’t all that much in the grand scheme of things. “What’s the letter say?!”

“Uh, right.” He unfolded the somewhat crumbled sheet of loose leaf. “Yeesh, and I thought doctors had shit handwriting. Umm… it says ‘Great fight.’ Misspelled great, by the way. ‘You’re the second person who ever beat me, and the third to win the grand prize. Ask tech-boy how to collect. P.S., something extra for gun-babe to get a healer and spa day. No rematch, Revenant.'”

What. “I can’t believe that guy.”

“I know, right?” Zach waved the hand holding the paper, but held the envelope and money with care in the other. “He didn’t even mention me! Bastard.”

Not quite what I meant. “At least we don’t have to worry about him coming after us for revenge, right? I’ll sleep better not having to look over my shoulder for psycho looking for a fight… Oh! Oh god, I’m sorry! I didn’t mean!”

“It’s cool, you don’t have to apologize for anything.” He set the letter aside, then stepped a little closer. I tensed, which he pretended not to notice. “I’m not gonna say I’m over what she did, but if people keep acting like I should freak out every time I’m reminded, I will start freaking out. Besides, I get reminded plenty on my own. Do you have any idea how many cats there are in this city?”

How is he so strong? I was reduced to a wreck because I may have been ‘intoxicated’ when I slept with someone who treats me well, yet he’s able to shrug off… so much worse than I could imagine. “With all the rodents in this city? Not enough.”

“I’m pretty sure our rats reduce the cat population, not the other way around.” He leaned closer to me, so close that I anticipated he was coming in for a kiss. I wasn’t sure what I’d do if he did, but I tried not to let him know how worried I was. Then he stood up. “Umm, I really should head home.”

Huh? I hadn’t expected that, and was without an appropriate response. “If you want to.”

He shook his head. “No, I don’t want to. Trust me, there is nothing in this world I would rather do than stay here with you. Maybe have a repeat of last night.” My stomach and… other… regions tensed at the suggestion, not all of which was an unpleasant feeling. “Or take you up on that flight to Europe, or anything else you’d like.” He reached out, touched my shoulder through the blanked. “But Laura can only cover my ass for so long, and I have got to face the music. Even if that music’s a funeral dirge.”

‘Funeral dirge’ sounds a little redundant, some weird part of my mind thought. “I suppose, if you have to.” I tried to hide the relief in my voice; I didn’t have time to explain that my neurosis weren’t his fault, and he didn’t deserve to be hurt like that.

“Honestly, I’d rather be in a room with a hive of piranha-wasps than face my mother right now,” he said. Then he leaned in and let his lips brush mine. Not a kiss, but not not a kiss, either. Like most of this situation, it was outside my ability to interpret. “A room with a beautiful woman in it is a no-brainer. But, them’s the breaks.”

Does he really think I’m beautiful? He’s looking at me, he’s not blind. I looked at his eyes, but I couldn’t interpret his feelings through the so-called windows to the soul. Then, I hadn’t managed to sort my own feelings, despite experiencing them first hand. For example: why did it feel like I was about to cry? “Yeah.” Of all the powers I do have, why did I get nothing that would allow me to be a Truthsayer?

“Yeah.” Now he kissed me, which I returned with my usual lack of skill or talent. If he wanted a kiss, I almost owed it to him at this point. Not that I minded, it felt nice to let myself believe he did want me, even if I couldn’t imagine why he would.

One of his hands slid down my back, to rest near my waist. I expected him to go lower, but he stopped, then moved away. “I’m should go before we, uh, get distracted.” He put the envelope, complete with cash, in my hand. “Here, you’ll see Laura before I do. And I bet Daryl knows a healer or two who won’t ask any questions.”

I couldn’t fault him for wanting to make sure his sister was taken care of. “I’ll take care of it first thing.”

“Thanks.” He stepped away. “I’m glad I can count on you.”

Wow. In keeping with everything else, I had no idea how to respond. “Uh, where are you going?”

Instead of the door, he walked toward the back of my apartment. “Well, this direction has a four story fall onto asphalt and gravel. The other direction has Mrs. Battle. I’m stupid, not suicidal.”

I laughed and shook my head. “You’re terrible.”

He pushed open the window. “And I shall atone for my crimes with my life!”

“I think you used that one!” It was too late, he’d dropped to the ground below.

I walked over to the window, to close it before I had to use a fire summon to keep myself from freezing to death. I looked into the alley below, again too slow to catch Zach leaving. It seemed a fitting analogy to this whole situation.

What is wrong with me? I’m so powerful that if I go rogue, the government thinks they have to mobilize an aircraft carrier to put me down, yet I can’t figure out what I’m supposed to do with a boy with blue eyes, an endless supply of terrible jokes, and a penchant for killing himself. Worst superpower weakness ever.

Zach would probably say a weakness to glowing rocks or pollution is worse.

I smiled.

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10 thoughts on “Price Nothing Given, Chapter 32

  1. A/N- The Piranha Wasp was originally created by an eco-terrorist Bio-Gadgeteer, who created them as a means to “help the rainforests protect themselves”. These little monsters are based upon hornet biology, with modifications that allow them to detect radio wave transmissions, communicate with each other via radio in a way bordering upon telepathy, built with a violent hatred of other radio signals, and possessing of a swarm and destroy instinct that makes killer bees look pleasant. They were also self-replicating. It was a “sure fire” way to keep the rainforests safe from human encroachment.

    Mistakes were made.

    Turns out, they also detected heat signatures in a similar matter to radio signals. They chewed their way out of containment, and ravaged the countryside, depopulating a seven kilometer radius around the lab of every warm-blooded lifeform save their creator, who was spared because the creatures’ instincts saw him as one of them.

    Eventually, he gave up on his attempts to assert control of his creations, and contacted the international community, providing all his data. He had hoped they could find the kill switch that he could not.

    Instead, they followed standard protocol for a Class 9 Threat. Scorch the earth, then burn the ashes. By the time they were done, over two thousand square kilometers of Brazil was reduced from lush forest to baked clay and dust.

    The Gadgeteer took his own life, long before he could be apprehended, but not before witnessing the destruction of his lab, his masterpiece creation, and everything he was trying to save.

    Clearly, that was the only important bit of information in this chapter. :p

    Save for all the correction and voting I gotta ask you guys to do. <3

    http://topwebfiction.com/vote.php?for=price

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That is more than mildly tragic. That’s like Shakespeare in depression level tragedy. Poor dude. I know that Gadgeteers can’t quite have their work peer reviewed, but I feel like that might have helped in this situation. That’s the real drawback of their powers. They are basically forced to leave the scientific community and strike it out on their own.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. Really enjoyed this chapter, both with Zach being sweet and Beth being a hot mess. Hopefully those two can make this a steady habit. I hear that close physical contact can release all kinds of positive brain chems…

    Small handful of typos:

    Relationship? Are we in a relationship now? Is jumping into bed with someone after getting high how I’m starting my first relationship? – Third sentence kind of goes off the rails

    “In case it’s a bomb. Or anthrax. Or an a bomb of anthrax. Bamthrax.” – Extra an

    Oh! Oh god, I’m sorry! I didn’t mean!” – Not strictly a typo, but I would expect either a follow up after mean, or something to indicate she stopped talking after the word.

    “I’m should go before we, uh, get distracted.” – Should be I

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh my god. She smiled. She *smiled*. *She* smiled. *She smiled*.

    It is terrible that she still is second guessing everything and assuming she should be sad, but she seems to actually be making progress. She even took her pills.

    I just can’t help but feel that the other shoe is going to be dropping soon… Forget Laura, how is Cassie going to respond when she finds out?

    Liked by 2 people

  4. 1. far away from any mind altering substance

    except her meds. Though maybe for a while she wasn’t taking them regularly for this reason

    2. such a fuck up -> such a fuck-up

    3. I found a cure” -> I found a cure.”

    4. fucked up life -> fucked-up life

    5. anything he hadn’t seen, or for that matter touched -> anything he hadn’t seen, or for that matter touched, or for that matter kissed,

    just a suggestion. Could even tack “or for that matter praised,” onto that.

    6. his his right shoulder -> his right shoulder

    7. radar is-

    change hyphen to dash

    8. loath my powers -> loathe my powers

    9. Or an a bomb of anthrax. -> Or a bomb of anthrax.

    10. If it’s counterfeit, it’s good enough to beat my power.

    eh?

    11. crumbled -> crumpled

    12. No rematch, Revenant.

    Suggestion: have Revenant misspell his own name

    13. for psycho -> for a psycho

    14. Then he stood up.

    straightened up?

    15. through the blanked -> through the blanket

    16. neurosis -> neuroses

    —-

    Nice chapter. Nice, horrible explanation for how and why Beth seduced Zach. Would have been funny for Zach to have fucked the crazy right out of her, but of course the poor girl can’t catch a break even that way.

    So, something new for Beth to be neurotic over: I’d guess neither of them thought about birth control, or even had anything available. Unless Anima could use a summons for this purpose, which would be even more horrific than any other use of her power. Especially for the summons, if they have any awareness at all.

    Revenant should have thanked Zach for restoring him to life after Anima killed him. Maybe he doesn’t realize Zach’s role in that, or maybe he’s just a jerk.

    Like

    1. Pretty sure Zach won’t ever need protection or his partners to have birth control. Every time he respawns *all* of his biological material goes with it. He doesn’t leave blood splatters behind when people are murdering him during fights, so it only stands to reason that he wouldn’t leave behind any other…. fluids, after a roll in the hay with Beth.

      It also means that his power not only made him touching people an invasive act (and I would love to read about his encounter with Beth from his PoV just for that) but also it took away his ability to have children. Of course, chances are it also took away his ability to age naturally, so he will also be highschool aged while watching his loved ones grow old and die. Not adding a kid in to that mix probably isn’t as big of a deal with that in mind.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. She definitely doesn’t have enough neuroses already *eyeroll*

          Can she actually hide under a blanket or will her summons light it on fire for attempting to choke her? Those are the kind of hard hitting questions we need.

          Liked by 1 person

      1. I don’t think that would stop him from having children completely. Difficult yes, impossible no. He just has to have sex and then not respawn until the zygote is made. Once it hits zygote stage, his power might not recognize it as his biological material anymore as it would be a distinct biological entity.

        Given how… sensitive… his powers are it might take a herculean effort not to respawn. Padded walls anyone? That also doesn’t bring his predisposition towards killing himself into it. Maybe a straight jacket would be necessary too…

        Has he aged at all over the course of this story? It hasn’t really gone on long enough for there to be too noticeable a difference, but I feel like someone has commented on him growing at one point or another. There is also the possibility that he is functionally immortal assuming his power isn’t overtaxed. The fight with Revenant might be one of the few times he’s actually aged in a while. His power returns fairly quickly as well, so it would take a herculean effort to age if that was the case as well.

        Liked by 1 person

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