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   Chapter 50

Damsel[ed] No Rescue Required By m i c h e l l e p a k Characters: 19925

Updated: 2017-12-12 12:04


Heaven.

Poison is gone. He kicks free and writhes out of my grip, his hand cold and slimy with stress-sweat. Good on him, leaving me alone, for once. But it doesn“t matter, because my eyes are focused on the flame. Crackling, outlining the villain“s face in a glowing silhouette. He looks different now, the wrinkles smoothed flat and tight, eyes like hot coals in his pale face.

Angelos struggles to his feet, Gats supporting him by an elbow. There“s a wolf at his feet. In my state of mind, I don“t find it all that surprising. Wolves have yellow eyes. Toby told me this. Never blue, never brown. That“s how you can tell them apart from, say, I really big dog. That and their size.

Jaylin looks on at the flames, her eyes big. Face upturned, hair tucked neatly behind her ears. The darkness slithers across the floor, moving in ripples. Natalie tucks herself in the corner, Owl sitting on the metal table, legs kicking. The toe of her boots, shiny and red, dipped into the darkness, trying it out.

"Dad!" Poison says, again, wings flexed out. I move to the opposite side, drudging through the humming dark. It smells like sulfur and sinks into my sneakers, squishy between my toes. The wolf, fluffy and gray and huggable like a stuffed bear despite its fangs, shrinks behind Angel“s legs.

"She“s shy," Angel says, dipping his head to apologize for it. "Kepler, Heaven. Heaven, Kepler."

"Kepler?"

"As in Johannes Kepler. You know, laws of planetary motion?" He lifts his head, black eye angled away from me. Smile, tentative. There“s a bruise on his face, yellow and smeared purple at the center. Already fading, a sign of a good healing factor.

I shake my head. Can“t help a little grin. "Nerd." Some things don“t change.

His attention shifts away from me, eyes on Fallout. Gats does the same, stealing glances at me from his feet every minute or so. He won“t look too long, like risking glimpse of the sun. They look at Poison, heads bouncing as they trace out the feathers in their minds. At least, I know that“s what I“m doing, watching his shimmering wings, arched as if to give him and his father privacy. Not that he can have any. We“re all supers here, and that means we have super-hearing, too.

"Dad," he hisses again, his voice lowered this time. It“s as if that“s the only word he can think of saying. He steps to the side and I can make out his hand, clamped around his father“s wrist. The flame-ball shapes into something like a tear-drop, a length of flame stretched above the rest of the fire. Fallout“s aura jumps. Jolts up from the floor, the flood of ink clawing up into the air in tendrils, curling at the tips. Jaylin is on her knees, knelt as if praying. Piety. Sometimes I forget about that, the respect villains show other villains. She hasn“t said a word, and she looks awfully pale, her head down, eyes to the floor.

"Get out of the way." Fallout“s voice changes, too. Higher. Sneerier. Younger. Like son, like father. Not that actual phrase, but close enough for me. Angelos holds his breath. Stares at his hands. I can remember him trying to kill me. Memories like that don“t fade easy, even if you wish they did. The black aura, coiling up on the floor and lashing out at the tile like cattails. I crouch low on my knees, hands curling into a guard once more. I bite the inside of my cheek. Prepare to fight fire with blows, though if he attacks Owl, I“m staying out of it. I don“t condone killing, but I“m not saving Owl if it comes down to it. Maybe it“s a personal thing. Maybe I know she“s gonna hurt my city, the one I“ve done a lousy job of protecting.

"Don“t do it." Poison“s injured hand rests on the blade of his wing, elbow crooked over his head. My eyes glide from the tips of his fluffed feathers to his skinny jeans, down to his knees. They“re trembling. Knocking together. "Stab her." His voice is a shaky whisper. "But don“t use the aura. It isn“t worth it." The smell of smoke fills my lungs. Chokes the air out. Angelos catches my eye and teeters to the door. He jerks his chin to the smeared glass, gray with dust. I can almost read his thoughts, I“ve known him so long, but I guess anyone with a sane head would be thinking the same. Screw this. He shakes his head. I“m going home.

Me too.

I reach out and snag the cuff of Gats“ sleeves. He looks at me, ears flopped against his head. I lean into his ear. "We“re getting the hell out of here," I tell him in the type of voice usually reserved to sweet nothings. To me, those words feel as sexy as them. That“s how you know you“re screwed, I guess. When escaping people who want to beat the crap out of you feels sexy.

"We can“t," he says. His voice is empty and mechanical. It makes me balk. He jerks his head away, wheels around to look me in the eye. His eyes are Poison“s eyes, too bright, too piercing, like they“re looking through you, and I remember when they were warm, smoky gray. "They“re just going to follow us. We can“t just run away from our problems."

I want to smack him and maybe punch him for confusing “escaping dangerous supervillains“ as “running away from problems.“ "What“s wrong with you?"

He punches his hands on his hips, glowers down at me. Then he looks sideways, avoiding my eyes again. His fingers fidget and pull at the hem of his shirt. They look so wrong on him, the gestures, I mean, and it makes my pulse beat faster, the heat behind my cheeks grow hotter. There“s something he“s not telling me, and I should feel sorry for him. I don“t know what Owl did to him. I should cuddle him, give him my shoulder to sob into, like Angelos did for him before. But I can“t or I won“t. My arms cross my chest and won“t budge.I“m so sorry," he whispers to the floor.

That snaps me through the marrow. "Stop saying that!" My voice quakes and cracks. Tears sting my eyes and I reach for his arm. If I don“t touch him I think I“m going to explode. "We“re going home!"

Owl“s eyes shift toward us. I only n

und Two? Friends and boyfriends don“t betray their friends. The hatred that swells up inside me frightens me, survival mechanisms and trying to shut down the parts of me that cared about him, loved him. Then I remember Owl must“ve brainwashed him and I feel a stab of guilt. A flutter of panic, because I don“t know what to do or who I“m talking to. I want my Gats back. "You“re going to get us killed, baby." My voice is a strained whine because I“m trying to sound gentle and understanding when I want to strangle him.

Owl whistles. "My, my. Look at the time." She sings the words, voice high and sugar-sweet. Fallout pants and clutches his head, face screwed up in pain. "A pity you can“t hurt me as much as you could your son."

He snaps his head up. His pupils shrink down to natural size, the aura sloshing back into his body. Poison groans and Fallout looks at the cooked wing, his mouth gaping and his eyes shiny, wide. He stumbles over his words. "Poison—K-Katris, I didn“t mean to, I—"

"See?" Owl smiles wryly as Fallout stumbles over to me and Poison, running his hands through the blacked feathers as if to check for breaks in the wings. Poison falls limp over me in a whimpering puddle. I pity him. I really do. "Why would I give up my child to someone like you?" Show lowers her eyes to mine. "Gatsby—Felix, I should say, isn“t that right, Felix?"

Gats nods glumly. "If that“s what you want to call me."

My mouth drops open, but she continues, oblivious, smiling when she speaks. "Felix belongs to me, now. You should“ve convinced my henchmen to take you when I told them to, but in the long run, I think he“ll make a fine replacement. Isn“t that right, Felix?"

His cat ears droop. With one more miserable look tossed in my direction, he lowers his head and nods like a bobblehead. Owl smirks. "Had to beat it out of him a little, but otherwise he“s an obedient boy and his parents—"

"Shut up!" Angelos and I shriek. Gats peeks up, his mouth screwed into a grimace. He shakes his head at us, but I“m seething and so is Angelos telling from his gasping and clenched fists.

Fallout“s fussing over Poison, asking him about the pain, apologizing as Poison swallows back sobs. Supporting him, I can“t follow Owl as she paces around Angelos. She smacks him with the strength of a supervillain and he stumbles. I watch helplessly as he topples over. He hits the ground floundering on his back and I suck in a breath.

"Don“t speak to your mother that way," she says.

"Fallout," I growl through my teeth, "get Poison off me, please, so I can help my friend out."

He shoots me a look. "Wait."

"Felix, come here," Owl calls, and Gats trots after her like an obedient little pony. He won“t even look in my direction. Just stops at her side, slouching with his hands stuffed into his pockets.

"You witch!" Angel cries. She laughs and pulls him up by the chain on his neck. He gasps and chokes, kicks and pulls. I shrug to get Poison off me, but Fallout snatches my elbow. Jaylin just stays in her perch, head bowed in damned respect. I want to kick her in the face. Owl tips her head to me as she drags Angel with her, grinning like she“s giving me payback. Payback for what, I don“t know. And it makes me want to scream. Angel pseudo-swears the entire time, even when she waves something black and shiny from her pouch that makes him flinch. Gats follows her, shaky like he“s trying and failing to keep his balance on a tightrope.

"I will speak to you later, Ms. Brooks, when your city“s burning. But I have to set a few things on fire first." She winks. I flip her off before I remember my hands are bound between my back. I slam my foot on Fallout“s, kicking and cussing him, Owl, and Jaylin—who still won“t move, even when Natalie chases—out.

And by the time he lets go, she“s gone.

***

Cripes! It“s twenty past nine on a Sunday night, this chapter is double the length it should be, and I“m awful sorry. Anyway, I hope you enjoy!

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