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   Chapter 31 One Last Question

Blog of a Teenage Superhero By m i c h e l l e p a k Characters: 12046

Updated: 2017-12-05 19:05

The cottage made sense in a strange sort of way. Only Max“s dad, me, and whatever other shadowy sorts he consorts with would know where to look. Any other criminal would“ve fled halfway across the country by now, but Max isn“t just any other criminal. He“s a scared kid.

Holding my best friend hostage after trying to kill the others.

I did the logical thing, anyway. I stole a van, drove it through the forest, and rammed it into the cottage“s front door. Kai clung to my arm and Percy gripped my knee so hard her fingers turned white and his carved nail marks in my skin. The impact sent us flying toward the dash, seat belts tearing open gashes, heroes hissing in the back.

"You know," said Red Comet with a shake of her head I caught in the rear-view, "you could“ve just the driveway..."

Kai pressed against me until all I could feel was the pressure of his slim, coiled muscles against mine. Pressure released, and Kai kicked the door open, screaming: "Finn! Finn!" His clicking footsteps shot a pulsing ache between my eyes as he launched across the freshly painted—now crumbling—stairs. "Finn!" he left me only an arm full of bruises, and I bolted, beating him into the kitchen where Max shouted and growled less like a kid and more like a creature.

"Masquerade!" So that brings us here. I“ve stopped calling him Max. It“s a crap-attempt to soothe the ache that opens up inside me when I think of him, his charming smile, his hands on my hips. I remember this place I“ve destroyed, with its cinnamon-beige carpet and boring beige sectionals. The only thing that“s different is me. I saw myself in the reflection of the T.V screen, the faint etches of my bushy hair, my torn cape puddling behind me in a pool of obsidian satin. And I stood there, if only for the breadth of a second, appreciating this heartbeat of silence between Onyx and me.

"Masquerade!" I blink back into the galley kitchen, staring at the villain“s snarling face. Finn lies limp and close-eyed at my feet. Blood clumps his hair, blots his shirt, races down his throat. His breathing is hitched and shallow.

"In here..." he slurs, his voice becoming a gurgle. "In here..."

"Finn!" I cry. Can“t help it. The broken boy smiles sleepily and Kai barrels into me, shoving me away hard. He drops to his knees with a thump and cradles the pale body against him. Despite the desperate nature of the situation, the fangirl inside me is shipping them hard. Finn“s chest slows.

"He“s still breathing." I“m afraid to phrase it like a question, but Kai nods, nods, nods away like a bobblehead anyhow. He“s still clutching the boy against his chest, draping a single limp arm over his shoulders.

"Stay back," Masquerade says. My gaze whips to the villain, whose delicate face is flushed pink and his eyes wide when he looks up at me. He“s crouched in a quivering hunch on the floor and rises slowly, brown eyes flashing. His voice is low and insistent. "I can kill—"

"Yeah, yeah, yeah." I don“t have to look down to know my hands are shaking. I can feel the anger, white hot, surging through me like a slash of electric current. "But you love me too much, don“t you? To crush my skull in, I mean. Poor, poor, superpowered baby. I guess you want to dance with me first, right? Another kiss?"

Finn twitches in Kai“s lap, groaning through lips caked in a brown a film of blood. Funnily enough, it“s that sound that saves my life. Because when I duck down to help Kai move him. Masquerade flings all his weight into a single punch that tears through the kitchen like a scream, his fist smashing a chestnut

d you guys just had partner up, like, in a Supers are Horrible Freaks of Nature Club?"

He shakes his head incredulously. "The Journal must love you."

My chest tightens. "Fine. Fine. Don“t answer any of that." I“m squirming back toward the window when I remember with a spike of anxiety the bubbling pit that surrounds the house like a moat. I“m trapped. It“s Masquerade or chemical goo. "Just tell me why you hurt Finn when you wouldn“t hurt me in that warehouse all those weeks ago."

The villain glances to the side. He looks the same as I crushed on, with his head of curly brown hair disheveled and his eyes wide on his face and his mouth quirked in that heart-stopping smile. It“s hard to connect them, Masquerade and Max, who“s still infuriatingly adorable. Even though he ordered the death of his friends. Though he hurt Finn. I don“t want to connect them. Hate him, hate the whole damned world for making me do it.

"I—I need to cross the line." His voice is suddenly a whimper. "Monet," he says, and I hate it when he says my name, because it sounds so intimate in his hushed time that it cuts me. He has no right to address me like that. With a pause and a sigh, like he“s taking time to explain some obvious fact to me and that I should be grateful for his time. "I“m losing it. I can“t be Masquerade and Max any more. He said something and I couldn“t stop myself and I“m just...just losing it. Max and Masquerade can“t exist...anymore..." His teeth flash in the moonlight, and he just stops talking, eying me again. He pulls his hand out from under mine. My heart launches into my throat. I don“t doubt him at all, about him being crazy. "Goodbye," he says, his voice almost a whisper.

I“m slumped forward, eyes drooping, numbness creeping up my shoulder, neck. But I know what I have to do, a path laid out before me I“m unafraid to follow, no matter where I know it leads.

I elbow the window frame and fall back into the cold, my grip on him so tight if he hadn“t stolen my superstrength I would“ve crushed him. It happens in the span of heartbeats, his eyes wild as he processes what“s happening a second too late to fly out of danger and all my fears slide away.

We plunge into the black sludge. He struggles and thrashes as the soup sizzles and sucks us deeper down. I cling to him like the opposite of a life jacket.

"Monet, mercy," he begs, "Mercy."

And I say "no."

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