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   Chapter 54

Damsel[ed] No Rescue Required By m i c h e l l e p a k Characters: 21234

Updated: 2017-12-12 12:04


Poison.

I“ve never known pain like this before.

And I mean, pain and I go back. Way back, to when I first got my wings. Happened to Dad. Happened to Angel. Turns out the trigger for wings is trauma. And though Catalyst“s presence helped, forcing bone bulges to grow beneath my skin, she just couldn“t cut it. And that meant four weeks of shocks and prods that didn“t cut it either, but Dad had to try anyway, because that“s how he got his wings he said, torture. The bulges broke into a relative wing-shape, but I still couldn“t fly because I didn“t have flight feathers.

I got my wings when my little cousin died.

This pain is different. It isn“t the loss of her, it“s a loss of freedom. If Dad locks me away—like he usually does—I“ll be trapped for good. No more plots or ingenious schemes. No more flights to clear my head. Forget it. I“ll never see the sun ever again.

There are five of us: me, at the head, Dad, at my side. Every click of his shoe sends another ache through my burnt wing. He puts an arm around me, but I squirm away. Cat—Jaylin—scowls. Her face flushed rosy, her dark eyes flitting from the floor to Heaven. Heaven, at my other side, gnawing her wrists. The cuffs rubbed them raw after Mathias bashed her arms free. She watches me out of the corner of her eye, suspicious. She should be.The other little girl, the blonde one with the sparkly silver mask, hangs behind her, peeking up at me shyly.

The wolf project whines and bats my shin. Heaven grimaces, propping a hand on a hip as our party scours the mall. The place has a terrible stench to it, and it“s quiet. Friends glance at my wing and give me sympathetic looks and weak smiles, but none of them talk. They just bow to Fallout when they pass him. Even the Syndicate guys stay back. They smirk alright, but most of them have hands to pieces in their ears, listening to something. We“re too weak to attack. Dad is tense. But when I look at them, I only feel another pain in my wing.

"You should“ve never split," Dad says with a shake of his head, "none of this would“ve happened if you hadn“t chased after your brother."

I want to scream. Punch him, maybe. But I nod instead, even though he knows I“ll chase that kid through Old Newport and back if I have to, and now that he“s taken my flight, there“s nothing he has to blackmail me with. "I-I“m sorry, sir." The whiteness and silence of the mall makes me feel uneasy, like someone is looking over my shoulder. Breathing down my neck.

Heaven swipes her forehead, blinking irritably. Her visor is gone. I watch her a few long seconds, taking in the blood mats in her hair, her shredded WWE shirt—stained and baggy—but the way she carries herself, the dignity in each clipped stride, you“d think her in a queen“s robes. I don“t know what I expected to see of her out of costume and out of school uniform. Maybe I thought she“d have some sort of secret girly side, where a dress or carry around a parisol or something. But no. Just the same tomboy Heaven who keeps her hair up in ponytails at school and thinks skirts are impractical because you can“t fight ("run from" she said when she was talking to the student council, but we all know what she was thinking) supervillains in them. I dig my fingers into the insides of my hands, I look away, my dad“s guiding hand squeezing my arm. He fixes me a stern look and I glare back. He knows what I can do. He should be glad about what I can do. I can make her loyal to our side for our side, for good. And she“d be happy.

"Let“s backtrack." Both hands are on her hips now. "Maybe we don“t need this Demeter guy—"

"His name is Ceres."

She tosses her head back, sighs. With a blink, she looks down for a second, squeezes her side. "Poison." The hero avoids my eyes, staring at my broken wing instead. It makes my chest go tight. My wing. "I want to save Starlight City. Owl intends to hurt people and we can“t have that." Her tone is urging, her voice strong and smooth. She sounds like she“s giving a speech, though she“s only spoken a few sentences.

Hearing her, my heart hurts. She could be mine. I could make her mine. It wouldn“t hurt her, and she“d be a lot happier, a lot more at ease. At least I wouldn“t betray her, anyway, not like her other boyfriend. What does she see in him that I can“t give her, anyway?

"Let“s just give up on your friend and go where she“d most likely attack," she says. "The capitol—"

"Or the super-museum," offers Cat-Jay. Unlikely, but that“s perfectly her. Making trouble for everyone else.

"Maybe the observatory," the girl in silver says. She looks up, catches my eye, and slinks back. Her voice is high and chirpy, and opposite the deepness and silk-smooth of Hev“s. "You know, “cause Starlight?"

Heaven grunts, pushes her thick curls out of her eyes. My wing tingles where the limb attaches to the blade. I shrug at her and offer a what-can-you-do grimace, a little fake sympathy thrown at her. "I“ll find him, I“ll, wait—there." At the edge of the corridor, the last shop down, there“s a pillar, a dent bashed in and darkened with dry blood. My burnt wing drags behind me, a reminder that I can“t fly. Can“t fly. Trapped. I quicken my strides. Heaven catches my line of sight and bounds up to the bashed in pillar. Smart girl.

She examines it, then looks at the storefront, with its side crushed, cracks running up and down the yellowing concrete. There“s a human-sized hole where I bowled Ceres through. Can“t miss it. When I tip my head, it looks kind of like a giant mousehole, the wall bashed into a crumbling arch. Heaven runs her hands over the crushed stone, picking at a patch of cloth hanging from a chip in the concrete. Dad glares at me.

"I“m going to have to pay for that, aren“t I?" he grunts, and his voice is so young and sneery it doesn“t match Dad. Even his face is different. Younger. He looks a lot like Angelos and it makes me sick at the back of my throat.

"Yes, sir. Sorry, sir." I shrug away from him and follow Heaven. He looks over his shoulder, smoothing and playing with the tips of his hair. It shines like ink over his shoulders. The girls trail after, talking, and Heaven crawls through the room on her hands and knees. Each brush of my wing on the floor brings on another staple of pain between my shoulder and wing blade. I dive low, my fingers finding purchase

that around, and after Dad gives him a nod he goes back to his book, a how-to manual on killing supers. He sighs at it, sets it down, and replaces with Jane Eyre, humming all the while. I clutch my wing, the bones cutting into my fingers, piercing the skin layer like felt. No blood. Just shriveled feathers and the scent of decay.

Ceres chases her, and the girls watch. Heaven ducks and dodges. A rack comes crashing down. She rolls through a shirt pile and pops up by the wall, crouched in a fighting stance.

"Yeah," she says, wiping blood off her face with the back of her wrist, "maybe, sure. But can you blame a kid with a God complex for trying?" She presses herself against the wall, back flat. Her hands fly up. "I“m not gonna fight you."

Her eyes flit up toward Dad, whose so light that Ceres doesn“t even think to notice his shadow. She flicks her head and he pounces. Takes him around the neck and the guy sort of goes limp in his hands. Can“t blame him. Not fun to get on Dad“s bad side, and I know that from experience. Dad ties his hands quickly and throws him down. I watch, my breath caught in my chest, to wired even to blink. Ceres presses his chin on his knees and trembles.

Every muscle in Dad“s body quivers, his cheek ruddy and flushed. But the anger fades with a few long blinks on his part, the paleness returning to his face "You had no right," Dad says gently, his voice soft, a sigh on his breath. It makes my heart clench to think of him Such emptiness. He“s a dad to Ceres, the manic, and he“s a dad to Angelos, the wimp, but not to me. He shakes his head and pats him on the shoulder, crouched low to the scuffed floor. "She“s on our side."

Heaven bites her lip when he says it, twisting a shred of her sleeve around her finger. Ceres shoots a dirty look in her direction and tosses his head back with a shaky laugh. "Hero," he hisses. "Some hero you are."

"I“m t-trying!" Her voice breaks and the whites of her eyes expand with a sort of animalistic panic. "But what am I supposed to do? I“m just trying to save people. I mean, I have powers, I“m supposed to use them, right? And I suck at it—"

"Oh, ho." Cat rolls her eyes and flings her hands in the air. It“s still so strange to see her unmasked. Creepy. Like her skin“s ripped off and I“m looking at the muscles bulging underneath. "Another existential crisis. That“s all these kids go through." She smiles, and it makes my skin prickly. "Maybe it“s “cause they won“t live long enough to see midlife."

"Huh?"

She frowns. "Crisis? Like, midlife crisis?" She“s still such a small thing. Even the sleeves of her sweater are too big for her, puddling at the wrists. And she looks normal somehow, too. She wears tight blue jeans with girly little plastic gems on the front pockets. She looks so average Her lashes are thick and dark and I wonder if she“s wearing makeup. Real cute.

Ceres flushes pale, and I wonder if he“s going to have another panic attack. He squeezes his hands behind him until his fingers go white, gasping. Heaven kneels next to him, her eyes darting back and forth, back and forth, like she“s reading him.

"I was a superhero."

She arches an eyebrow, her expression blank, but her voice kind. "Oh?" She sounds like a Disney princess, her voice now lilting and young, something soft and innocent and sweet. My heart swells and throbs. Does she even know she“s doing it? Or does she have so many voices in the cannon to hide her identity they just turn on without her even noticing?

He glares. Then leans back and smiles, the edges of his lips quivering. "I was a kid. And they took me like they“re gonna take you. Right, Kitty Katris?"

He shoots me a look, and all of me goes cold, thinking about him in that white room, crying and shaking and screaming like that. I smooth back my hair, shrug my dangling wing. Try to shake away the images.

Heaven“s face is still blank, and she“s frozen. What do you say to something like that? Dad“s looking down at his watch, suddenly agitated, all the lines in his face drawn up with the intensest of concentration.

"You say you save people?" He looks up. Then he stares back down at the ground again, tears glinting down his face. "Why couldn“t you save me?"

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