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   Chapter 62

Damsel[ed] No Rescue Required By m i c h e l l e p a k Characters: 19043

Updated: 2017-12-12 12:04


Heaven.

The sky is pink.

I“m in love with Poison.

And for Starlight“s sake, someone needs to slap me in the face.

It“s easy to forget your priorities when you“re tired and hurt. I know that now, but Ceres“ accusation still stings. I draw up a shaky breath.

The street is all but empty beneath me. Cut with scraggly cracks filled with black tar and framed with broken, brown trees on. It“s my priority to kill Owl. Save my friends.

Poison twitches. He“s heavier than he looks, all the wing mass making him as heavy in my rubbery arms. Beautiful guy. Tall, strong, delicate-featured. There“s something about him that feels dollish, more porcelain and lace than bone and flesh. The smell of him lingers on my skin and it“s divine. Musky and sweet, all the same.

And this is how I know my head isn“t mine. Maybe it was a bad idea, asking him to pull me under his influence before a big battle. Scratch that—it was a bad idea, plain and simple. But I“d rather think about my new eternal love for Poison than anything else.

"I cannot believe this." Jaylin clenches Natalie“s shoulder as she flies up to my side. As for what she“s not believing, I have no idea. Me and Poison, the sky, perhaps? It“s gone a soft sort of violet, stronger purple churning up ahead on the horizon. Sirens wail, but only from behind us, in Old Newport. Ahead, where the city thickens with sprawling skyscrapers, it“s silent. I strain my super-senses, but I only hear a crackling hum. Something like electricity, hissing on a scale I“ve never heard before. The sky pools with a deep purple. And to me, it spells trouble.

"Does anyone know what that is?" I ask. Poison shifts, curling an arm around my neck and shoulders. My stomach flips. His goofy smile makes me go all gooey inside seventh-grade-crush mode. It makes me want to pummel myself.

"Dunno." He looks up, the light catching his eyes. It makes them glow like a cat“s. "A doomsday device. Like a portal in the sky from the movies and stuff." His smirk makes my focus fizzle.

I“ll spare you my thought processes for the most part, but so you know what I“m dealing with:

He“s perfect. Does he know just how perfect he is? A paragon. A god. Who do I think I am, holding him? He“s too beautiful to be touched.

My heartbeat pounds in my ears. The speed and altitude of my flight makes my ears pop and I crook myself flat on the breeze, a hot sweat pooling through the thin cotton of my shirt.

Thoughts like these loop in the back of my head, now as natural to me as my own breathing. Learning to balance the voices in my head is a scary sort of soothing, and though I know I won“t be able to keep up forever, that“s not important now.

"Doubtful, Katris." His name, though foreign, makes my lips tingle. "Any other suggestions?"

"Can“t believe it," says Jaylin again, "just can“t believe it."

"Little girl!" Fallout shouts. I glance back. I“ve almost forgotten about him. His hair whips back in his flight, his thick eyebrows snapped together and his teeth bared. His entire face is red. And though normally a supervillain“s wrath is something to fear, I“ve stopped thinking of him as a supervillain. To my mind, he“s becoming the World“s Worst Chaperone on our Field Trip to Hell. And who can blame him? Poison, Jaylin, me, Nat, we aren“t the most normal kids in the world. If I had to supervise us, I“d sip imaginary whiskey out of my imaginary #1 Dad cup and watch the world burn. "If you say that one more time I swear on Tauras“s ghost I“ll have you all shot!"

Jay falls silent. I toss a look over my shoulder and find her wide-eyed and pale. Natalie pats her with a free hand, cuddling Kepler with the other. The girl carries the beast like a terrier, its face pressed against her chest and its hind legs curled up limp against her ribcage.

"Kepler," Nat says, blowing a wisp of hair out of her face. "What an odd name."

"Tell you what." I squint at the swirl of purple above. The words come out in a gush, something to take my mind off the crackling abyss ahead. The heat draws blood to my face and an icy trickle of sweat. "If Angel dies, you can keep her and rename her whatever you like."

Natalie mulls this over in the silence of our flight. "Angels don“t die. They fall."

A prick of pressure eases in my chest. Though the thought of Angelos "falling" isn“t a comforting one, it“s better than thinking of him as dead.

Poison shifts, bracing a hand against my shoulder. His touch makes me shiver.

"I“ve seen this before," Fallout says, his tone harsher now. The clump of us has just skimmed over a block of old-city buildings, the roofs broken in from what I suppose were old super fights. They“re all empty. Up here, you can see glimpses of couches and moldy sinks. The smoothness of his voice suddenly cracks, clear without the usual flight winds. "We need to land. Now."

The sky cracks. Waves of purple come crashing down, stinging my neck, back, and heels. I“m knocked out of my flight, rocketing downward, the blood surging to my brains. Dazzling purple streaks tighten into strings. They lash into a grid on the horizon like a net, curling down from every direction. The heat intensifies in my body, in my blood, frying me from the inside. Natalie, Jaylin, and even Poison scream while Fallout cusses much too softly for a man plummeting to his technical death.

All my energy rises into my shoulders and core, my legs kicking for a sort of manual propulsion. Nothing. I curl my entire body around Poison, my shoulders flexed back to cushion the fall.

I know there“s still some of me left in my body, because my last before I hit is that I need to protect him.

***

I think my guts explo

" He curls his lip in disgust. "Get a history book."

I cross my arms. "If you haven“t noticed, we have a supervillain to stop."

He picks his shirt off the ground, holds it up to the light, and squints. I don“t even try to guess what he“s doing. "Outside, there“s a barrier. Purple Auras control energy, and that means they can put up force fields. Luna did, thinking to keep us inside the city so the US government didn“t get p.o.“ed." He shakes his head and brings the shirt to his mouth. His teeth flash and I watch, mesmerized, as he rips two long holes into the fabric. "Fatal mistake." He shakes the shirt and slides it back over his head and shoulders. His wings jerk out through the new slits.

"Can we go outside?" I ask.

Natalie climbs up the arm of the couch and looks out a shattered window. The air is hot and dead still. The atmosphere hums and crackles like live embers. I suppress a shudder, ignoring the pique of my heart when Poison reaches for my shoulder. If he cared about Starlight at all, he“d wait.

Fallout turns and squints at the moldy cross that once held up glass panes. "We should, but whoever has it up clearly doesn“t know what they“re doing. Better cover up in case of burns."

He picks up his jacket it throws at me. It drapes over my face and head, smelling remarkably clean, if a little ashy. I pluck it off and throw it at Jaylin.

"She needs it more than I do," I say when Fallout glares. "I“ll heal faster. And Nat“s staying here."

Jay huffs, but I think she“s too scared to contradict me when I have Fallout“s attention.

"No way." Nat whips around, arms over her chest, fixing me with the scowl only Jaylin should have. I flinch. She must“ve picked up from her while I was knocked up on mind-numbing agony. "That lady tried to kill me—"

"Exactly. And she“s going to do it again. So Kepler stays here to protect you and we“ll be back in a jiff, okay sweetheart?" I offer my hand to the wolf and it snuffs at my wrists. Her nose is wet and cold, her pelt so fluffy it“s awful easy to forget her teeth. I give her a pat. If Angel trusts the friendly animal, I can too.

Fallout shakes his head again. "If you won“t protect yourself, Heaven, then stay here."

I feel myself bristle. "I don“t have to listen to you." I“m sick of adults telling me what to do when I“m figuring everything out. They think they know so much better when they“re more irrational than Angel“s fear of heights. And he has wings. "I can heal from burns, and I can run fast enough that I won“t get burned anyway.

He frowns, and I frown back, my skin prickling from Poison“s eyes watching on in wonder. Finally, as another wasted minute ticks by, Fallout sighs. "I“d rather you just stay here where you won“t get hurt."

"You were going to let me die."

He shrugs. A hot rage bubbles up inside me. How can he pretend to care? And if he“s going to pretend to care, why can“t he waste the energy one his real son instead of me? I toss a look at the window, at the glimmering buildings off in my peripherals. I don“t want his pity and I don“t want his protection.

The book-writers were right, us loners aren“t equipped for the organized big and bads, but it sure as hell beats this. And of if I want to get beat up, I can get beat up alone.

He“s still glaring at me, but at this point, I don“t care what he or the rest of them think. I spin on the toes of my shoes, my arms flexed in and arch over my head like a ballerina. The door is cricked off the side, the paint chipped where the mold begins to grow.

The morning before, I was running away from my troubles. Today, I“m running toward them.

Fallout lunges toward me from behind, but he“s too late. Even the brush of Poison“s warm fingertips won“t keep me.

I bolt for the door and I don“t look back.

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