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 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. And it’s real! Or 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.