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   Chapter 22 NO.22

Damsel[ed] Rescue Required (3 of the Damsel[ed] Series) By m i c h e l l e p a k Characters: 13637

Updated: 2018-05-12 11:45

Silence spreads among us as we return to the only place will take us: home. Poison, biting back whimpers as the wind bites his sores. Heaven, wincing at the sounds. Together, the three of us stumble back into our living room, where the adults await us after many frantic phone calls while Shiro and Gatsby sulk on their opposite sides of the room. We lay him down on the brown-beige couch on his stomach, so his shredded wings are exposed. Toby, still yawning in joggers and a tee shirt, pulls a Monster from the refrigerator and joins us. He's a heart surgeon, not a wing doctor. But if we take Poison to the hospital, he'll be arrested.

Funny, how I thought Heaven wanted justice, but she refuses to serve it.

She's a walking bruise, anyway, purple slashed across her chest, neck, under her eyes, like stripes on a strange cat. She breathes in nebulous little puffs. Jaylin is white, so pale I can see the blood vessels under her skin, spindly blue cobwebs that run up her throat all the way to her lower lip. Her fingers sink into my arm, drawing a wince across my face. But she's leaning on me as if I'm the solid thing left in this world, so I let her stay. Her head pressed to my elbow, her heat tingling on my skin.

"It's okay." I never wanted this. To be a comforter, to be someone's foundation. But I smooth my hand down her soft cheek, standing tall. The windows are pulled open, splashing blue light across the apartment in ribbons. Her hair glistens in the glow of the stars, deep brown. She digs her fingernails into my flesh so fiercely I wrench out of her grasp, blue blooming on my brown skin, and she slumps against the back of the couch. "Are you okay?" I run my fingers through her hair, silk-soft. Turn the ringlets over in my palm. Silver is threaded into them.

She lifts her eyes to mine. "Angel, " she says my name like it's a gasp for air. "I don't know how to tell you this."

Great. My supervillain girlfriend is scared speechless of something we'll probably have to fight, because we're always fighting something. Inspires confidence. But I don't let this, whatever these thoughts are, bleed into my expression. Just keep my face flexed into a usual grimace. Poison turns over and groans, the stench of blood and sweat and burnt flesh spreading through the living room with the stretch of a clawed hand. "Get your guardians. They're in trouble."

I swallow and nod, focusing on Toby's frame bent over Poison's. His usually bloodshot eyes are wide, glinting oddly in soft focus. He folds the bloody hands back against Poison's body, lifts the blindfold, winces, and sets it back against the face's hollow. A trickle of blood runs down my brother's cheekbone, a slight crescent that draws to a glob on his chin. Toby cusses, a sharp sound under his breath. And I slink away from Jaylin with a last pat on her shoulder, my breath a hiss through a ground jaw. The door to the master bedroom creaks. Darkness blinks back at me, bed made, blue down sheets pulled over the pillows. I'm not surprised. June and Storm always has a lively nightlife. I never knew as a kid, not until I woke up screaming from a nightmare about dragons and math equations and they were gone. Nowhere to be found. I'd floundered, choking to breathe, thinking the dragons and math equations had taken them, too.

I brace my hands on the door frame, my knees all soft and shaky on the inside. I know nothing about the people who raised me. And that knowledge is tick, tick, ticking away inside me like a time bomb. So, yeah, turns out I know nothing about the people I love, missing guardians, a secret superhero friend, my "bro" this strange, sad kid with a past I will never know.

I run my fingertips over the creases in my palms, imagining the shower of purple sparks rising from my skin. I know nothing about myself, either.

My left temple throbs like my skull is cracking open. I exhale, and the gasp is so high and grating at the edges it's more of the cousin of a scream. I slam the door and turn back toward the living room, where Gats watches me with hoo

. There's blood everywhere, all over the floor of my white white white room, a splatter of color that reeks metallic on my broken feathers. "Stop it!" he shouts.

"You stop it!" I'm bigger than him, stronger. But he clenches my wrist so tightly my fingers reflexively open and the bloody glass drops from my grasp. I struggle, shouting and he slams his foot into my instep, dropping me to the ground. He lands on top of me, and I reach for the glass. I can hear Luce laughing at me between my eardrums. No. He can't have this body. I'll destroy it first. "Don't touch me!"

I'm pinned between his knees, looking up at eyes and a ceiling that whirls. I snatch at the carpet, grasping for any shard I can touch. Gasping, screaming, and pseudo-cussing until he slaps over a hand over my jaw. A hand I consider biting.

"What the hell do you think you're doing?" he hisses through ground teeth. "Angel, stop it! Stop it! Stop trying to hurt yourself! Why are you always trying to hurt yourself?"

I quiver. My hand finally stops stretching for the remains of the mirror. My eyes sting, but not with tears. They burn from squinting at Gats for so long. At last, I go limp, finally feeling the tingle of pain in my skinned hand and in my torn wing.

He laughs bitterly. When he blinks, a single, silvery tear runs down his cheekbone. He brings a free hand to the tips of his feline ears, snapping them upright. They're turned down at me. "I'm stuck with the kitty ears. You're stuck with the angel wings. Okay?"

Luce is still laughing. I only stare up at Gats, my heart beating so fast I think it'll burst through my ribs. A usual panic sets over me. Another anxiety attack, the only comfort I can find is in the pressure and heat of Gats' body. The spice of his aftershave.

"Angel?" He slides his hand down my throat, sets it on my heart.

"I'm scared, " I say, still trembling. Laughter bubbles from my bleeding mouth. "My body isn't mine. It's his. He's going to kill me and-and I don't want to die." Spit dribbles down my chin in goopy red strings. "I can't get away from him. He's in my head. I hear him. I don't want to die, Gats." And still, tears won't come, only strange, hushed laughter. "I'm so scared."

He lays his head against my timebomb heart. "I'm scared, too."

"And I want to protect you, " I whimper. "I'm supposed to protect you, and Hev. I don't know how, when he's apart of me."

He ravels his fingers in mine, chest rising against my ribs. His hands are warm and I relax against him. "It'll be okay, " he says, and I faintly recognize the words as the ones Hev told him the night he was torn from me, the night he and everything else changed. "It'll be okay, baby, it'll be okay."

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