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   Chapter 5

Damsel[ed] Some Rescue Required By m i c h e l l e p a k Characters: 9924

Updated: 2017-12-05 12:05


Heaven.

I rub my temples. I“m alive, I tell myself, at least there“s that. Even if Toby promised me to my enemy. Even if a supervillain just showed up to claim me. Whatever. My heart“s pumping, I“m awake, and I should be grateful for a second chance at life I very frankly don“t deserve.

Instead, I“m mentally slapping myself over and over for letting Angel and Gatsby get caught up in this mess. I should“ve locked Angelos up in my lair as soon as his powers showed. I should“ve taken him home when he ran at the dance. I should“ve worked harder to find Gats the moment Cat took him. I should“ve worked harder period. At every turn I made a wrong decision, and now I“m paying.

"I don“t want to play stupid Monopoly!" Gats shouts from down the hall. "I want to know why Poison called Jupes a killer!"

"Shut it," Angel says. "I“m the banker. We“re doing this. No supervillain is gonna keep me from playing!"

"I really, really doubt Poison tried to kidnap you to break up your game of Monopoly."

"Well, it“s the principle of the matter!"

I plop on the living room floor. Catalyst laughs from the couch, and I look up to see her sipping a diet coke. I turn away. She threatened to slit Angel“s throat. I don“t want to look at her. "What“s the matter, princess?" she asks.

"Don“t call me that."

She laughs. It“s not the giggly, nice-girl laugh she“s known for at the academy, it“s her usual slasher-horror cackle. It doesn“t match without her mask, the wrong voice synced up to her body. "Oh, come on! You“re the princessiest girl I“ve ever met!"

I blink. "What?"

"Oh, Gatsby! Save me! I“m falling into a deep slumber!" She rolls off the couch and thuds in front of me, switching her giggle to the really cutesy one that leaves Angelos all puppy-eyed. I glare.

"I saved his sorry ass." I point at my neck. The arm Owl smashed is still healing, but it works, the bones all snapped back in place like jigsaw pieces. Dark, ragged scars criss-cross my skin, just another sign my screwed-up healing factor is still, well, screwed up. "He owed me one."

"So?" She shrugs. "He still had to carry you all heroically and stuff. You were so cute, bleeding to death and all."

I glance at her, draped over the floor like she“s some tiger-skin rug. She“s in my territory and Angelos is my friend. I don“t want to share. Just looking at her makes me want to throw a hook-shot or two.

"I don“t want to talk to you," I say, tracing angry patterns in the carpet. Gats, Ang, Jupes and Storm shout about something in the other room. I don“t care to listen in and Catalyst won“t let up.

"You know," she says, "I was supposed to drag Gats back so you could die without interference. But I let him escape."

"Why?" I ask dryly. She laughs again. It“s all she seems to know how to do.

"You really are ungrateful, you know?"

I clench my fists so hard my arms shake. "Well, thank you for not letting me die then." I give her my fakest smile and count to ten like all the anger manuals say to do.

If Snare catches her, they“ll execute her on the spot for treason. A horrible person she may be, I wouldn“t wish that fate on anyone, and I see why Juniper took her in. Not that I agree with it. Jupes should“ve turned her in so she could rot in Starlight“s Supervillain Containment Facility. Even if Catalyst is only a henchman. Even if she betrayed her organization to save my life.

She kidnapped Gatsby. She almost crushed Angel“s jaw. She“s dangerous and doesn“t give a damn for the people who care for her AKA Angelos. Pretending to like him, dancing and dueting with him like some Disney couple. I don“t want to see her near him. I can“t believe I helped her get closer to him. She played me.

She paces circles around me, her fingertips on my shoulders. "You“re easy to annoy too. God, Galaxy. How are you still Starlight“s favorite superhero? There“s nothing heroic about you!"

I look up. "Stop it."

"Well, all the boys love you. So there“s that."

I“m burning up inside. "Shut your mouth or I“ll shut it for you."

"Does Gatsby know? About your little love power, I mean."

Heat floods my face. I hate her. "None of your business."

She crouches in front of me and gives her fakest pout. "Aww, that“s so sad. I hope you know Gatsby doesn“t love you."

A pain lights in my chest, but I ignore it. "Do you know how close I am to throttling you?" I“m aware of how robotic I sound, threat after threat, but I have nothing else to sling at her. Without the costume, my pun game is pretty sorry.

She widens her eyes. "I just don“t want him to break your sweet little do-gooder heart, princess. You know, when he learns about your siren-thing and chases another girl."

And there goes my last ounce of restraint. My guard goes up and I swing. Knuckles graze her cheek bone. She grabs my neck, cutting off my air. I hit the ground. Next thing I know we“re rolling on the ground, screaming and clawing like Re

al Housewives.

I don“t cat fight. I calculate each move and try to think like my opponent. What will she do next? How can I beat her? And how can I cause the least property damage? Right now, though, I don“t care. It“s like something snapped inside me and I can“t find the logic to stop or think or reason. All I want is her blood. She scores her nails down my face and I slam my elbow into her throat. Each time she touches me white hot floods my body. I don“t feel like myself anymore. I feel like an animal.

The rest of the household rushes in and Jaylin buckles underneath me, whimpering like a bruised puppy. I don“t stop whaling her. Each bruise I add is like another score for me.

"Heaven!" Toby hauls me off. The side of Cat“s face is swollen and she gasps to breathe. Good. I“m bleeding and my body pounds all over, but I don“t care. I wriggle out of Toby“s grasp, vaguely aware of Gatsby staring all wide-eyed like I“m a poltergeist or the living, breathing personification of the pop music I“m supposed to hate.

And Angel, being stupid, heart-of-gold-nonsense Angel, rushes to Cat“s aid like some knight in tin-foil armor. Which he isn“t. For the record, that“s me. He cradles Cat to his chest all protective-boyfriend-y, and his sleeves ride up his arms, exposing fingerprint sized bruises on his wrists. Cat“s doing, no doubt. "Are you okay?"

"I was just talking to her," she says, shooting me a pointed look. "And then she attacked me!"

My chest heaves. Angelos glares in my direction, and I feel like someone punched me in the heart. He isn“t...no. He couldn“t be taking Cat“s side. I“m his friend. I“m the one who stuck my neck out for him. She hurt him! She kidnapped him! She humiliated him! How could he like her after all that?

He helps her to her feet. "Do you need ice or something?"

"I“ll be fine."

"You sure?"

She sniffles. "Well, maybe that wouldn“t be a bad idea. I can hardly stand."

"Here. I have you." He picks her up. Just scoops her up the same way I carried him all those times. My mouth drops open, and for a second I forget breathing“s a thing or how it works. Stupid Angel! Doesn“t he know who he“s messing with? This is the same girl who tied him to a pole with a chunk of obsidian around his neck. That stuff burns him like a hot poker. She knew how much pain that would put him through, leaving the stuff on him for so long. But she did it anyway. And now she just waltzes into Juniper“s apartment and expects everyone to welcome her with open arms. I hate her. Hate her. How can Angel love her?

"Angelos--"

He looks at me. His uncovered eye flares, and it“s almost scary. "I owe Jaylin my life, and if you“re going to attack her like some maniac, I don“t want to talk to you."

I can“t even process that sentence. It“s so mind-blowingly stupid my brain just stops.

"I“m the maniac! And how can you just assume I started it?" My fists clench. He owes her his life. He owes me his life. I“m the one who caught him when he fell. I“m the one who carried him home. I“m the one who picked him up, wiped away his tears, and fought for him. All I ever wanted to do was protect him! And yet there he goes, calling me a maniac, bridal-carrying Catalyst into the kitchen like she“s a damned innocent little princess.

I whip around. The adults look at me like I stole some kid“s pony or something and Gats just slinks off into a corner. Good on him. "Heaven," Juniper says, "you did start that fight, didn“t you?" She“s looking at me so intensely I can“t help but glare back.

"She--she--" I want to apologize, but I can“t. Why are they taking her side? She“s the supervillain! I wouldn“t have touched her if she hadn“t said those things! "Yeah. I did. She said some stuff, I warned her to stop, she didn“t, so I hit her."

Toby smacks me. Twice. I“m shaking with rage, the walls and the air around me suffocating. That caged-animal feeling rises from deep inside me. I need out. Now.

"You“re acting irrationally," Storm says, "why don“t you sit down and think about what you did?"

I tell myself to pull it together and do as I“m told. He“s the adult and I“m the child. I made a mistake and I hurt someone in the process. I want to say, "Yes, sir. Sorry, sir. I won“t do it again, sir," but I can“t. The words just won“t come out, no matter how hard I try. I risked everything to protect Angel, and this is how he treats me?

I need air. I can“t breathe. There“s a knot in my throat, and I force back the angry tears. Superheroes don“t cry, especially over stupid stuff like this. I swallow back the lump and shoulder past the adults.

"Young lady! You come back here right this minute!" Toby shouts. He“s gonna light into me when I get back, but I don“t care. After having my neck slashed and half my body crushed like scrap metal, I can take whatever he lays on me.

Tonight, I let my pent-up teenage hormones rage. I run. Just run out the door and hope no one follows.

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