MoboReader> Adeventure > Damsel[ed] Some Rescue Required

   Chapter 47

Damsel[ed] Some Rescue Required By m i c h e l l e p a k Characters: 16583

Updated: 2017-12-12 12:05


Back at the Fibbs“ household...

Storm Fibbs watches his wife draw as he sips Tennessee whiskey from his Number One Dad Mug. The light is low in the dining row, bottles strewn across the table like picnic goodies. Juniper bites her lip and rolls a pencil through her fingers like a twirling stick. Her eyes, redder than the tattoos etched up her shoulders and back, narrow at the sketch pad. She stopped crying hours ago, but Storm knows his wife. Just because it doesn“t show on the outside doesn“t mean she isn“t breaking within.

She shakes her head. "It wasn“t supposed to happen like this." Her voice is creaky as if she has to force it through a closed throat. "You know that, don“t you?" But she never lets Storm answer. She lowers her eyes and draws in her pad. The whiskey is mellow, almost sweet. He sips and peeks over her head, curling a free arm around her shuddering shoulders. Her sweatshirt sleeve cracks at its printed “ASPCA“ letters, smeared with pain. A splotch of red here. A dab of golf there. When Angelos was little she used to buy industrial-sized rolls of white paper. She“d drape them across the floor, carpet and all, and set up a palette of acrylic paint for him. Then she“d stick a brush in his hand and set him free.

Storm stares at the mug, willing his hands to steady and his heart to slow. His wife wanted her adopted little boy to become an artist. She was going to love that kid until she got her true son back. And now, he“s gone.

Juniper scribbles. Her pencil whispers against the coarse paper, eating through the dining room“s silence. Its hissing doubles the sound of his thumping heart. Toby snores on the couch, passed-out drunk. He“s so quiet Storm would“ve missed it if he weren“t trained to catch sounds others are supposed to miss.

He pulls back across the table. "We tried," he offers, holding out his cupped hands as if the words are something tangible, like a salve or a bandage or a wet rag to dress her wounds. "We raised them the best we knew how." He doesn“t know how to phrase the rest of his sentence in a way that won“t hurt her, so he doesn“t try. "But we knew he was time-bomb from the—"

"How dare you." Juniper“s voice is low and cold. She looks up slowly from the double helixes, her jaw tight and her glare harsh. To him, her eyes look like two chips of pale wood. Hard. Hollow. She looks at him Like he“s dead to her. The scratches from her pencil fade, the gray streak moving slower and slower across the paper. "How dare you talk about him like that."

"He“s not our child," Storm says, matching her steely eyes with a steely voice. Her mouth is open, the lines drawn up tight in her face like they“re about to split at the seams. "I love him. I do! For the love of God, I raised him! But he has parents, and we said we“d give him back—"

"He“s not an adult. It was supposed to happen when he grew up. He should be able to choose where he wants to go and who he wants to be with." Her eyes lock with his, pleading. They don“t look wooden anymore, wide and round and watery at the edges; they look like glass. "Or to stay with us."

Storm stares into his whiskey. The amber liquid sloshes in lazy circles and looks like honey to his bleary eyes. A cool breeze touches his face from the AC unit. It“s a comfort to the muscles pulled taut in his face like rubber bands, ready to snap at any moment. "He“s not our child," he says again. "We have a child." He digs his nails into the mug“s ceramic edge, and suddenly, the “Number One Dad“ strikes him as the world“s cruelest joke. Like renouncing his son wasn“t enough. Like suffocating on the inside wasn“t enough. Juniper just stares on. Then she snaps at him.

"You“re drunk," she says. "Go away." He obeys with painful laughter, turning toward the kitchen without another word. No, he wishes he were drunk. The liquid that shone so crystalline and honey-like at the table burns as he downs it. It feels all wrong somehow, like trying to put out a fire by drenching it in gasoline. He leans against the facet and finds it polished spotless by the damned kid himself. Storm turns around and cups his head in his hands. The kitchen was a bad, bad place to escape to. He slides down against the cabinets and sits on the floor, cross-legged like a child. Children.

We have children.

How long ago was it when his friend sobbed those words on his knees as he faced the long sword? Twelve, thirteen years maybe. To Storm, it feels like he held the man“s broken helmet just last night. He draws in a shaky breath, each huff coming in great heaving gasps, and closes his eyes. His hands slide to his knees as they usually do when he meditates.

Someone knocks on the door.

"I“ll get it," Juniper says. Her words drip with ice. Storm wants to push through the door and wrap his arms around her, to take away her pain any way he can. But she wouldn“t want that, not after what he“s said. So he doesn“t. He rises to his feet, tingles racing

paint and some sort of wilted plant Storm can“t name. When he glances up the custard walls are just as saggy and sad as ever, and for once he wants to shout at someone, the maintenance man will you. Really shout at that landlord to have them painted over.

But the ugly color of the walls shouldn“t be the first thing on his mind. That or how the smell of liquor doesn“t fit his wife and that he liked the tang of acrylic paint better.

He should be thinking of the women and men wearing sunglasses indoors, and how that

There“s only three of them all, arranged in a tall, thin circle. They“re playing Uno standing up, at least they were telling by the deck at their feet, and it must“ve been a hell of a game with their assassin glasses and blank expressions. They wear suits, black ones, the fabric so thick their faces shimmer with the type of sweat one can only get from their line of work. Poor fellas. Practically draped in velvet standing in a sixty-something-degree apartment hall. A square-jawed woman with a short hair points a revolver at Juniper. His wife spits.

"Consider yourselves under arrest," Liz Curtis purrs in Storm“s ear, her finger rubbing circles on the back of his neck. He tenses. If she has proof, they“re, as Angelos would say, “pretty screwed.“ "For treason. And murder."

Storm shrugs. "Sticks and stones." But even he has to admit it“s more than sticks and stones to him, it“s a man begging for his wife to be spared because they have children. Juniper is dead silent.

"And consider it your punishment to help me save Starlight." She rolls a fold of his sleeve between his fingers. Storm is still and silent. So is Juniper, but for different reasons, he supposes. Then she grunts.

"Fine," she says. "But not for you or your threats or your blackmail. I“d like to see Owl again." She makes a giant flourish with her hand and grimaces. Storm holds out a hand for her to take, but she presses her fists on her hips instead. Her eyes look blue, somehow, like all the brown in them froze over. He remembers when they were gray, like his, and it cuts him to think about, even if he can“t name why. "Besides, I“ve always wanted to watch you and your city burn, even for one day."

The woman with the revolver shoots. Storm doesn“t see where the bullet enters, though he assumes it passes through his wife“s stomach from where the gun“s aimed. Liz Curtis raises her head, chin tilted in mild interest as her pet super bleeds. The shot isn“t even enough to put her on her knees. Juniper laughs, a hand over her mouth to hide all the blood coming up. Storm remembers that trick, shooting or stabbing a super in the stomach so when they spook, they bled out of their mouths. Better than gagging them, anyway, if you didn“t mind the gurgling.

Storm laughs, too. He can“t help it. He laughs and laughs as the mayor takes him by the elbow and drags him into the elevator. Because the day has finally come, thirteen years late maybe, but it“s here.

And unless he or his wife of the kids or any heroes left in Starlight can think of something quick, it“s gonna be a lot bloodier than last time. Last time, Starlight City“s day of infamy. When the heroes died. More specifically for him, the day he killed Taurus, his best friend Cecil Brooks and the father of his goddaughter.

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