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   Chapter 4

Damsel[ed] Rescue Required By m i c h e l l e p a k Characters: 9710

Updated: 2017-12-12 12:03


Angelos.

"You know what I want?" I ask after my fifth slurp of coffee. I“m drunk off exhaustion, drunk off caffeine. My heart is pounding in my chest as I snuggle deep into the leather seat, watching the world pass as if I“ve never seen it before. The night sky, spreading forward and backward forever in time, the flash of taillights, the silver flicker of raindrops as they pound the streets. They look like Christmas lights to my tired eyes. "I want a magical girl transformation scene. Every time I change into costume."

"Mmm-hmm." Jaylin doesn“t even bother a glance in my direction. She“s been at my side me when I“m delirious on drugs, broken up with grief, tipsy on love. So this isn“t the craziest thing she“s heard from me. I lean my chin on my hand and sigh. "Like Sailor Moon?" She tosses back her wavy hair and offers up a grin, her eyes darting to the gears as if they“ll disappear if she looks away for too long.

"Yup. Or Ladybug." I flip the loose strands of hair away from my ears. "Tikki, spots on!"

She rolls her eyes. "Honestly, Angelos. Your mother just died, we“re heading back into the evil lair of evil people who like trying to kill us and all you can think about is Miraculous?"

"It“s a good show." I cross my arms over my chest and force back my smile. I want to forget Owl. Forget what she was going to do with my friends and my city. Forget that she“s a part of me.

She made me the crown prince of an illegal organization built on human misery. "Besides, I-I was just saying, you know, a transformation scene. With the music and the costume that just sort of grows on when you say the right words. I could just be like, “Supervillain Angelos!“ do a little twirl, and bam! Mask, lace-up combat boots, eighteen-century gentleman attire, and smirk."

"So you want to be a supervillain now, huh?" She drops her voice. It sends warm shivers up my spine and a hot blush beneath my skin. I watch the minutes flicker by on the radio clock, and all at once I don“t want to investigate. I want to curl up on the couch with Jaylin snuggled against me, hot cocoa in hand instead of coffee, Star Wars playing in the background.

I lean back, the world blurring in my squinted eyes. "No." My voice comes out a whisper. "But that“s what I am, right? My mom was. My dad is. I was made for it." I“m tired of crying, and yet my eyes still sting. "I don“t want this, Jay. I just want to do what“s right. I want to be a—"

She touches me. Just a light tap on the wing that fills me with warm tingles. "Then drop this stuff with Syndicate. We can run away from this. Gats doesn“t need his car. We can take it across the country and lay low for a little, you know?"

I start to laugh. Her dark eyes are locked on mine. Her hand is cold, her face is pale. And then I can“t even manage a squeak. When my phone buzzes in my pocket, I fumble with it to avoid her eyes.

There are a few cracks in the screen now. A nick on the corner. A cobweb of them running like veins through the center. I must“ve fallen on it, or dropped it, or a million other possible things I forgot about. That“s the thing about adventures. When you“re scrounging to save yourself from a premature and gruesome death, the little details slip by. Like my phone.

"Hey, Stor—Dad." When you call someone something sixteen-almost-seventeen years, giving them a new name is jarring. And as soon as I say it, it feels foolish. Like I“m playing pretend and Storm is just playing along to make me feel better.

"Where are you? Didn“t I tell you to stay home? I“m going to assume you“re being kidnapped, Angelos, and you somehow managed to find your phone and were about to call me when by a miracle I called you first." His voice is shaking with rage. I flinch. Jay switches lanes. We“re headed to the exit, now. There“s less traffic here. We“ll loop back to Starlight in minutes.

"Sorry, sorry." I“ve never heard Storm like this. He sounds like a different man, his little whispery voice raised to a roar. "I just wanted to see—"

"Are you trying to get yourself killed? Honestly, boy!" He“s never called me “boy“ before either. It makes me shrink back in my seat. Fallout calls me and Poison “boy“ all the time.

"I didn“t mean to worry you." I soften my voice. "Please don“t be mad at me."

"Don“t head home," he says with a grunt. "Meet us at the airport."

"The airport? Why?"

"And pick up Heaven, while you“re at it. I doubt she“s with you now."

"What“s going on?"

Storm sighs. "Just be on your best behavior."

He hangs up. I poke in Heaven“s number, forgetting how contacts and speed dial works, forgetting pretty much everything as Jaylin cranks up the speed and the luxury car makes a low vroom vroom teenage boys are supposed to faint over. I“m more concerned with the build of the car, half-wondering what Hev“s up to,

half-wondering whether the hood will crumple in like it“s supposed to or if the whole frame will collapse and the carriage will be crushed under the weight of the ceiling and I“ll end up like my mom—

"If it isn“t The Unsinkable Angelos Fibbs." Poison“s breathy voice spills from the speaker. I jerk back. The phone falls through my knees and slides under the seat when I squirm and bump it with my heel.

"Where“s Heaven? What are you doing with her phone?" I strain against the seat belt, refusing to unclip it as the speed steadily climbs. Starlight City may be nestled in the south, but stereotypical Starlight shares a few things with the stereotypical north, and fast driving is one of them. "What have you d-d-done—" My voice cracks. A real one, for the first time since my voice did the rockstar double-drop. I draw up a shaky breath and make myself sound smooth and clear. "Poison, if you hurt Hev so help me, I“ll—"

"Hurt her?" He laughs, and its his signature polite little chuckle. "Why would I hurt my . . . girlfriend? Lover? Hev, what are we?"

Jaylin shrieks. Her hands are off the wheel. I look up, fists blocking my face, as I can fight off a something-ton-machine come hurtling toward us, but luckily, I don“t have to. "Poison!" Jay dives down, wrenches the phone out between the seat and the door, and bobs back up, one hand controlling the wheel, the other holding the phone to her face. Her words spill out in a gush. "This is too far, Poison! This is the line you don“t cross! There“s a difference between being a supervillan and being sick. You are a disgusting, amoral, sack of human—"

"I“m fine," Heaven says. Her voice is too soft, too calm. "Jaylin, Angelos, hi."

"Hi." I lean in over Jaylin“s shoulder. The car hurtles down the wrong exit pass, and then I“m tapping Jay, going “whoa, whoa, whoa“ when she pulls into a side road, and we“re flying, and she“s cussing Heaven out, and I“m gripping the door handle so hard my knuckles have gone white and in the rearview my face is drained of any healthy color. For a second I just stare. The boy with the greasy black hair spilled over his ears and curling up in the back, his one blackened eye, the other hollow, the type you can“t read no matter how hard you try. His scars, his bruises. The scratches linked across his arms he can“t remember getting. The fingerprints on his throat from the fight with his brother. Purple pinches on the side of his face from his mother“s hold. Scrapes on his wrists from chains.

My breath quivers. For a second I“m caught like this, not quite in my body, staring at my reflection and wondering what“s staring back. My feathers bristle up and my wings ache from being pinned back againt my shoulders. The road is getting bumpy. Neon lights blur at the edge of my vision.

"This is my choice," Heaven says, her voice insistent, different somehow, not quite Galaxy“s, smooth and deep, not quite Heaven“s, gruff and motherly. Too quiet. Too unsure. Hardly a whisper.

"No! No, it“s not! What part of a love spell do you not understand?"

"I asked him to cast it!"

"Heaven, please." I ball my fists and press them together. I don“t know what I“m asking her for. Don“t do this. Don“t let him do this to you. Don“t pretend this right. "We“re going to pick you up, and we can talk about this, and—"

"You were in a bad place. You weren“t thinking right! He“s going to play with you, Hev, and when he“s bored and he“s going to—"

"Don“t pretend you care about me." Her voice is cool and hard. "You“re not my friend, Jaylin."

"But I am," I say quickly, running with the opportunity she left open for me. "Heaven, Poison sucks. Okay? You know this. I know this. I have to meet Storm at the airport. Let“s talk about this, over coffee and ramen and—"

"Bye, bye black bird." Poison again. The call clicks off, but I refuse to end the conversation. I redial, my hands trembling with a cold sweat. The car slows and then it comes to a stop. When the call goes to voicemail, I slam my hand on the glass and smear away a clear spot.

It hits me like a sock in the gut.

The emptiness of the street. The silence. The familiarness of the old brick buildings, the dark. And the steel tower at the end of the road. My heart is slamming.

Jaylin doesn“t have to say anything. She looks me in the eye, the anger still so clear in her expression, and all at once I know she“s just at scared as I am.

Fallout“s lair. I twist the hem of my shirt around my fingers, roll back my shoulders, and steady my breathing. "I“m sure we have a little time for a rescue," I say, though my stomach has already begun to sink. Heaven is stubborn.

You can“t rescue someone who doesn“t want to be saved. You can only plunge your hands into the water and watch them drown.

But I“ll try. I“ll get her back and meet Storm right on time.

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