MoboReader> Adventure > Damsel[ed] No Rescue Required

   Chapter 48

Damsel[ed] No Rescue Required By m i c h e l l e p a k Characters: 16005

Updated: 2017-12-12 12:04


Heaven.

As Owl smiles down at me, her steady hand gripping Natalie“s neck like a school bully dangling a toy over my head, I know I screwed up. I dragged an innocent kid into my very bloody and very personal fight. My chest is tight like it“s held together with pins. I should“ve never left her alone. I should“ve never given her that blade. "You got me." I hold up my hands. My voice is smooth to make my trembling hands. "But this doesn“t concern the kid. Put her down, Owl, and fight me like a woman."

The girl“s face has gone from pale to blue, her eyes bulging like a toad“s. I crouching low to spring at Owl. The villain shrugs, drops the girl, and Natalie hits the ground with a yelp. I dive to my knees and look her over. Color returns to her face in splashes of white and pink, her yellow hair oil slick with sweat forming a nest around her neck where the scrunchie fell out.

"I“m okay, I“m okay," Natalie says. Her voice is rough, gravelly, and fragile all the same like she“s speaking from deep in her throat to hide how young she is. How scared. She breathes out through her mouth and sighs, once, twice.

"Are you sure? Are you breathing all right?"

"Uh-huh." She flashes me a smile. "Just let me sit here. Catch my breath."

"I didn“t mean to cause her any harm." Owl shrugs. "But heroes are fragile things, aren“t they, Ms. Brooks?"

I don“t like that she uses my name. It leaves me with a taste like a mouthful of rot, like I stopped down at the highway for a roadkill breakfast. I pivot my right leg to the back, my knees at a bend and my left foot pointed squarely at the villain. A fighting stance. My hands come up to my face in fists, the gesture so natural I don“t think about it all that much.

Instead, I“m thinking of Gatsby, slinking through my peripherals. He“s by one of the shelves, tinkering with one of the potted plants, the cat ears drooped. He rolls a painted pot through his hands, spilling dirt on his sleeves and on his shoes, the two brown branches flopping lazily over his wrists. He won“t even look in my direction. I want to squeeze him so bad, to feel him up and down to make sure he“s really here, really safe with me. I want to make sure Owl or Fallout or anyone else never hurt him again. But he“s still looking at that stupid plant and the same part of me that wants to hug him also wants to clock him. "Ms. Brooks?"

I snap my head in the supervillain“s direction. "What are you driving at? What do you want?"

"All business, aren“t we?" Her smile is disarming. She really does look like Angelos. Same black eyes and hooked nose and other elegant features. "Good." She catches me staring and brushes her fingers across her eyepatch, almost as if to remind me it“s there. Just another cryptic move, but I“m tired of trying to understand these people. “Villainy“ isn“t another name for people with superpowers committing criminal activity, it“s a way of life. Cooler than running around in the middle of the night punching people, anyway. And I don“t think it“s my place to decipher it. "Gatsby knows I just want you for a little chat, isn“t that right, Gatsby?"

He whips his head around, eyes wide like he forgot her presence entirely. He backs away a single step.

"Gats?" I drop my guard for a moment, just to pick Natalie off the ground so she isn“t as much of a target. Her hand clasps mine, her nails digging into my skin as if struggling for a hold. She“s still heaving, and when she looks up at me, her eyes shine like two silver dollars flashed in the light. I pat her on the shoulder with my free hand while I“m still a measure taller than her, and she grins at my touch like I“m some celebrity or a favorite teacher or someone else who“s attention she craves. I“m not worthy of that type of appreciation, but I can“t dwell on it. My thighs are achy and my chest throbs as I watch Gats look at his hands. I“m trembling all over, my feet digging into the floor. I don“t want to run up to him because he doesn“t want to touch him, and I just want to give the guy a hug! I missed him!

When I was little, Toby told me to ignore the boys who took my hand and said they loved me. He said they were distracting. And you know what? He“s right. More than right. Boys are distracting, complicated, confounding. My mind swims. All the pieces that make me me ache.

It“s like they made a wishbone of me, like I“m being torn up and down the middle, the part of me that wants to beat up Owl and the part that“s bleeding under the skin because my "boyfriend" is hurt and he won“t let me help him, they yank at me, breaking me."Gats!"

He forces a weak smirk that looks very, very wrong. Like a mask. My stomach turns and tears surge to my eyes like the kid whipped up a hurricane in me. My raised fists quiver and twitch.

"

threatened to cut off one of his limbs, so he made like my parents had for the first sixteen years of my life and vanished."

Gats snickers at “Daddy,“ and Angelos elbows him in the side. Gats swipes Angel on the nose, and Angel scoops him up by his collar and dumps his on the ground whiles Gats slashes and kicks at Angel“s super strong grip. While Owl and Fallout argue, the two wrestle. Angel ruffles Gats“ hair and snatches him in a headlock, his neck nestled in the crook of Angel“s elbow.

"Give up!"

"Never!"

"I“m winning!"

"No, you“re not!"

Every piece of me, every fiber or me strung with a coil or two of my DNA aches to bounce over there and join the play fight.

"Boys," Nat says with a shake of her head, not knowing that if duty hadn“t bothered to look me the face, I“d be shouting and kicking and choke-holding along with them. Then Gats sort of loses it and cries into Angel“s forearms, muttering about how he missed us and he“s sorry, but Owl, bloody Owl, horrible Owl, Owl, Owl, Owl...

"Buddy," Angel says, patting Gats non-stop as if he were trying to comfort a hyperactive puppy. "Buddy, hey, buddy. Don“t be sorry. There“s nothing to be sorry about." And he rocks him, rocks him in that chokehold while I watch in mild awe as my friends cry, comfort, and hug in a bromance I“m not a part of. It makes me feel alone all of a sudden. Not jealous, just alone, my place on the top of the triangle toppled in the meantime. So I listen to the negotiations, watching an impassive Jay as she sits across from the boy and chews her sweater.

"...Oh, please, James. You“re willing to risk Starlight City over one child?" The two supervillains drift toward the boys as if to make sure they don“t escape. I sigh and let my fists fall at my hips, easing back into the doorway. What“s Gats so sorry about? Why won“t he let me near him, but confide in Angel instead? It“s all just so confusing. I thought everything would be put back together when I found him and Angel, but the villains are still fighting over them and I don“t know what to do. I can“t just attack Fallout and Owl, they“re older, bigger, stronger. The worst of the worst. Fight them would be like a yellow-belt trying to take out two Great Grand Masters. Not possible. Waste of energy that could be put to use another way. But how?

"Starlight isn“t at risk of you, but I know what you can do with a telekinetic and what you can do with the strength he grants. I“d rather he be dead than under your command."

I sigh, leaning my head against the door frame. My eyes close, my head bowed in lazy concentration as I try to use the supposed big brain Toby says all Brooks have and magic a solution to this situation. One that“ll hold up this time, not the trick the guys used in the lair to save my life. I need a real fix-it this time to chase the baddies.

That“s when his hand cups my mouth. By the time I open my eyes he bashes my head against the frame and consciousness slithers out of my body while I claw and scream bloody murder. Dragged out of this fight and into another, against my will, against my duty to protect my friends, and I fall into the twiilight of sleep knowing I“m a failure.

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