Fire and Ice: Part 1

Many villains will do wickedly bad things for a purpose. A tragic backstory, monetary gain, a warped righteous sense of morals, the standard motivations. But I never had any of that, nor have I ever wanted any of that. Villains have no code, no boundaries. They get to do whatever they please and go along their merry way without any hang ups or binding connections. And it’s a damn good time doing it. I could never be a hero. Ever since I gained my powers when I was little I’ve loved running that cold fear down a person’s back. Just the thought of their frozen state as they gazed at me in pure horror sent me all giggly. Cold and frozen things weren’t new to me. I had ice powers. Destructive, deadly, and gorgeous.

I was sending a wide spread panic into my new city, or a more fitting name, my new target practice. I’ve turned four already into giant ice cubes and now I was going to bring it up to number five. To think, twenty years old and already about to break a supervillain record!

I was finishing up the mindless doodles I had blasted with sleet into the front of a bank, ready to ice skate my way downtown, when I heard it.

“I would stop that if I were you…” I rolled my eyes. I should have known. It was my fault for not expecting a “protector of the city” in at least one place I blanketed cold. Almost every town has one of these spandex doofs. Another goody two shoes superhero to try and lock up the insidious bad guy. He even had a cliché phrase to start this whole charade.

“Wow, that certainly changed my ways. I WILL stop because I soooo want to be like…” I turned around to face my competitor and did something I never in a billion eons thought of doing.

I paused, and I ogled. He wasn’t like anything I had seen. He had this mature swagger about him, a stiff and straight stance, the natural aura of power. He was confident, a presence that could send hope into hearts of millions and fear up the spines of any threat or terror. It was every superhero shoved into one poster child for the extraordinary, for the brave, for the protectors of mankind.

And holy shit he was hot! Honey brown eyes that almost melted a heart that was frozen over years ago, framed with shiny dark hair swept back to reveal a soft complexion under a sharp and sculpted jaw. All was set off with red lips that even from this distance I could see were plump and so bitable.

“…you,” I finished, finding my voice again. For a split second he seemed to stumble, confused by my reaction. He gained his bravado again, hands on his hips, chest puffed.

“You are not welcomed in Haven City!” He bellowed at me. I gave him a once over. If it wasn’t for that ridiculous getup he was wearing I would be drooling over that firm and tight body. But seriously, matching red pants and jacket with obnoxious, orange stripes? Why can’t superheroes choose the subtly of villain’s costume? While he was a walking fire hydrant I stuck with something classier. Blue leather trench coat, monochromatic under shirt, hair slicked back with a slight spike. Simple, elegant, but still makes clear my powers.

I regained myself as well, noticing in his fumble he placed his hands a bit too high on his sides, coming closer to the top of his ribs. To mask the livewire that was my nerves I resorted to sarcasm and chuckled darkly.

“No shit, Sherlock. Unless you’re the city of Stockholm Syndromed citizens I doubt a villain who’s freezing their asses would be welcomed. Oh, and uh…nice chicken wings.” I copied his pose mockingly and laughed again when he readjusted himself, obviously embarrassed. He hid the slip up as best he could from the cowering hostages I trapped in ice.

“I do not take kindly to your attitude. I’m giving you a chance to leave, I don’t want to fight.” He stepped closer to me, the face a scolding parent would give a misbehaving child sat on his own.

“Yes, you do,” I smirked stepping closer as well, “Heroes need to fight for the fame poor hapless fans cities like these give you.” I gestured to the scared onlookers. Something in his eyes flickered that I had never seen before on a hero, especially a young one. Shame. Doubt. Fear. Like I had confirmed something that held him awake at night and maybe even believed. I didn’t want to admit myself the mixture of vulnerability and confidence was making him more infuriatingly attractive, however I couldn’t lie to my body the way he was trying to. The hero cleared his throat.

“One more chance. Leave. Now,” He jerked his arms down, sparking two large fireballs into his palms. I looked down at them and snickered, at myself this time. The chance of not only finding but falling for my literal opposite could only happen to me. He, though, took my little jovial moment as another taunt against him. A flash of anger seeped into his eyes, the orbs becoming hotter. I went a few paces back, charging my powers, feeling the stark chill come to my fingertips once more.

“Be gentle, this is my first time,” I said coyly. I watched as red flushed up to his cheeks, briefly stopping. But he gained his composure and the fight began.

He fired one attack after the other. I swung my own right back at him. They collided in the air and diffused themselves as fire met ice. A splash of water followed suit. I sent a wave of icicles sharp to the point at him. He ducked away from them with ease. All shattered into a few disregarded cars.

As he got up I ducked behind an overturned bus. I conjured a large ball of ice in my hands, ready for the right moment. I got up to a crouch when a sphere of what I can only describe as lava rocketed into the bus. I jumped, falling back onto the street, and observing the damage the young super had made. All that was left was a burnt side of a building and a singed gaping hole right through the center of the vehicle.

I was stunned for a moment, quickly realize the intensity of his powers. This wasn’t just fire he had control of. This was every force of nature that could destroy miles of land, all in his fingertips. I knew I couldn’t defeat him one on one.

So, I had to play dirty. I emerged from behind the bus. My ice ball careened towards him. He countered with ease behind a small circle of fire. While he was distracted I created more icicles, hovering in the air. They were not over him, though. The super watched in horror as I let them fall over one of the citizens I had trapped. She screamed, trying to pull her frozen legs free. The hero being the hero, never one to let a bystander die, reacted quickly.

When he rushed to her, I made my move. Pounding attack after attack against his back, I sent waves of icy metric tons where he couldn’t fight back. He stumbled and grunted at each impact. The icicles continued to fall. Her screams becoming louder and louder. The hero seemed about to crash to his knees. I smirked, ready to land my finally blow. I let an enormous ball of sleet form above him, ready to send my distraction away. But before I could even make a move to drop it, he slammed his fists into the asphalt with a loud roar.

I didn’t know what happened at first. All I saw was a flash of orange. Then I was sent hurtling and onto my back several feet away from him. All the frosty damage I had done to the area was now melted. The icicles were gone. The sleet was gone. Every bit of ice I had created was gone. In the entire city. The. Entire. Fucking. City.

The hostages and other citizens were all unharmed. Wet and covered in ash, but in one piece. The only sounds were soft footsteps and the drips of water into puddles.

I groaned and sat up as much as could with being thrown to the street like ragdoll. While everything inside me ached, I watched as the hero stood, gazing at his hands. He panted heavily and walked over to me tall and in a quick pace. My attacks left no damage. I looked up at him, his warm eyes piercing into my cold stare. There was something behind them. Something…darker. A sense of uncontrolled and unbridled fury he could almost bury with the fear that flickered inside him too. Almost.

I had underestimated him. He was stronger than me, more powerful than me, protected this whole city because he could, and he did it every day. He wasn’t invincible, but that didn’t make him weak. It just proved that he could do the implausible, because, for him, nothing was impossible.

I raised my arms without hesitation. I had lost fair and square. I’ll let him haul me off to jail where I would escape. My original plan was to get out and head to the next town without looking back. Now, I was going to stick around. He wasn’t a common pretty boy superhero. He was a threat, a rival, an equal. I knew this wasn’t some school yard crush anymore.

I was going to make him mine, himself and that darkness. And if that meant committing a thousand crimes for him to notice me than so be it.

Night Prince

Dr. Gold didn’t know what to expect. Surely nothing, there had to be nothing, he wanted it to be nothing. But in fear of something, and maybe a hint of curiosity, he was going to stay in his office until it was dark.

Two months or so before, Dr. Gold had received a note. It was two sentences, but each ran his blood cold.

‘I will be visiting your office at night on October 25th. Wait for me, do not do anything rash.

-Dracula’

Dracula. This had to be a fake. A joke from a student. Revenge from a colleague. Dr. Gold was a cryptologist, he had studied and poured over every shadowy beast this world might have to offer.

But Dracula? No, no it couldn’t possibly be real. That gnawing feeling haunted him for two months, though. A part of him wanted it to be real. To prove all his years of research led to something tangible.

Sun, his only source of any protection, slowly dipped from the sky, turning the whole atmosphere pink. And then violet. Then indigo. Finally, the heavens above were an inky black, speckled with white stars.

It was nighttime.

Dr. Gold waited like instructed. An hour past, two hours. His eyes gazing out his window for any sort of movement. Nothing.

Gold let out a huff, feeling ridiculous.

Of course it wasn’t real. It was just a joke, a good laugh at the good doctor. All of this nonsense made him miss supper.

He turned to grab his coat. And then something moved in his peripheral. Gold looked out again to the street below. A streak of something moved past the corner of his eye. A person, moving too fast for any mortal being. They weren’t human. He pressed his face to the glass, ragged breath fogging his view as he tried to see more.

Figures shrouded in darkness darted under him.

Towards his unlocked front door.

“Dr. Gold?” He whipped around at the voice behind him. A young man, no more than nineteen, stood in the doorway, dressed in a red vest and long black coat. A cane in one hand, a dark top hat perched on his darker curls.

“Dracula?” Gold hissed.

The young man smirked.

“Pleasure to meet you, sit. Forgive me for such a sudden entrance. There’s only so many hours I can be out.” He removed his hat and coat. The doctor still didn’t speak.

“May I sit?” Dracula asked as he did so anyway, pressing both palms on the top of his cane. He raised an eyebrow.

“Your heart’s beating fast, Dr. Gold,” He said, almost musing to himself. Gold didn’t know what to say, do, God he couldn’t move. He could barely breathe. He swallowed thickly.

“You…you’re…real.” It wasn’t a question. A statement. Something needed to be said out loud so Gold could process it. Dracula was real.

“I am, Doctor. And I came for your assistance. I’ve watched empires build and ruin themselves, great leaders once so prosperous I watched fall onto their death beds. The world has evolved before my eyes. And yet, people just…get everything wrong about me. Everything. From the moment I’ve been here. I’ve tried, by God I tried, but I can’t seem to convince the masses. You however…” he pointed the cane towards Doctor Gold. A silver-plated skull of some creature laid on top.

“You can convince them. You’re books on everything that goes bump in the night have done perpetually well.”

“I…I guess,” Gold mumbled.

“So modest. And quiet too. You are more perfect for the job than I could ever imagine.”
“What job?” Dracula smirked at the doctor’s question.

“Writing my autobiography. I’m tired of lurking in masked corners as some fairytale. I’m ready for the public to really know who I am.”

“H-How will I do that?

“You will interview me, I’ll instruct you on how I want it written, I’ll look at drafts very diligently Dr. Gold, so any opinions you have might be best kept to yourself.” He chuckled as if what he said was a joke. Dr. Gold swallowed again, afraid to ask but he just had to.

“And what if I say no?”

Dracula’s eyes narrowed. He didn’t say anything for a minute, which felt like an hour to Gold. The vampire tilted the top of his cane where the skull adornment lied towards himself.

“Do you know what animal has this skull, Dr. Gold?” He asked. Gold hesitantly nodded no.

“Oh come now, surely a doctor would know?” Dracula teased, knowing very well a cryptologist actually wouldn’t know. He stood and started to pace.

“Over the millenniums I’ve been able to collect a hefty amount of followers towards my side.” He clicked the silver skull with his nail.

“Wolves being one of them.” As if on cue, a howl echoed outside, chilling Gold to his core.

“I’ve also gained a loyal group of breatharian who are right now distracting the doorman downstairs who let us in.” Dracula leaned forward, palms pressed firmly on the desk, cane between his thumb and forefinger.

“So mark my words by God’s light and the Devil’s inferno if you deny my request or in any way destroy it in the process, my wolves, my men, and myself included will eviscerate every single adult, child, and infant that lives in the two blocks near your office.”

Gold let out a muffled wretch deep from his stomach, a small cry escaping his lips.

“Now you’re not so cruel as to let gallons of innocent blood seep into your hands, are you?” Dracula asked, barely pretending to care. Gold knew that this was all a game to the midnight creature, either way he would win.

Gold looked Dracula in the eye, jaw square, a forsaken crease in his brow.

“I’ll do it.” He gruffed, sealing his fate inside a coffin. Dracula smiled, fangs finally presenting themselves.

“I knew you’d see it my way.”

Waiting Out the Storm

It’s going to rain soon. The clouds billowed and expanded in the sky as gray drips between the fluffy white. A storm was predicted to come to Brookwell, apparently a large one. Might be why The Milky Way was packed more the usual. People hunkered down in plastic booths and squeaky stools, chatting away or keeping their eye on the weather station. It’s easier to wait out a storm then trying to drive through it.

How I was able to grab a booth is a miracle; and all to myself without sitting shoulder to shoulder with a stranger too. I got the classic, slice of greasy pizza and a milkshake that was just sugar and chocolate packed into a cup. I took my first bite when she walked in.

No one liked Katlyn. It was just a fact. An unspoken rule between classmates. You ignored her at school. You didn’t talk to her at school. Not after everything she’s done. The broken hearts, the diseases spread like wildfire, the cheating, all of it. So, no one liked Katlyn.

I avoided staring, pretending to get lost in the carbs and cheese on the plate in front of me. The first tapping of raindrops on the large glass front fluttered down as she glanced around the room, her own to go milkshake in hand. She’s looking for a spot.

And she’s just noticed my empty booth.

I didn’t want her near me. The way she talked about people was disgusting and hypocritical to say the least. Every bad thing she’s ever said could be made straight back at her. And people told her that. It’s died down since senior year, where everyone is close to leaving and never having to see her again. Now though, I might have to wait out a storm with her.

“Is this seat taken?” She gestured to the booth across from me. What was I supposed to say? That I was saving it for a friend who she’ll watch never showing up? I need room for the stuff I don’t have? Just a flat-out rejection? Politeness and awkwardness sunk into my system and I muttered out a “no.”

Katlyn slung the bag off her shoulder and slid into the confined space. I scooted my feet in close to me, not even crossing my legs. Don’t want to accidentally hit her leg as she cries assault like last year with poor Tommy Seatman. A date turned sour where she didn’t get what she wanted and started pointing fingers.

There was a beat. A steady stream of silence where neither of us really looked at the other. She kept her gaze out the window to the rain. I kept to my pizza. But she, of course, wanted to talk.

“Any plans for after high school?” Her fingers played with the straw of her drink. I shrugged, still avoiding eye contact

“College.”

“Oh, cool. What college?” Can we please not do this?

“Fairmount State. Up in West Virginia.”

“Cool…cool…” There was more silence. She played more with the straw. I’m surprised she’s not talking about herself right now. Going on and on about all the scholarships she has and how she’s going to do so great in whatever Ivy League she had. Still, I was curious.

“What about you?” I asked. Katlyn also shrugged.

“Well you know how it can be sometimes. You try for Brown or Harvard, but you end up on Plan B. No big deal. My fault really.” I finally shift my head up, looking at her as I crease my brows.

“Your fault?” She didn’t admit fault. Everything was out to get her. She bitched at the world, not at herself.

“Well when you start flunking just before you send in transcripts that puts a dent in things, doesn’t it?” Katlyn chuckles, but she didn’t sound all there. Like she was sitting twenty feet away from me, not three.

The storm was picking up, the sounds of distant thunder. The rain fell harder.

“It’s not all bad,” she continues, “I got accepted into the University of Miami. Fun stuff.”

“Right…” This was weird. Katlyn wasn’t acting like, well, Katlyn. Not how she was supposed to be, anyway.

“Any ideas for majors?” I wanted to dig a bit, see what the hell is going on.

“I’m debating between if I want to mathematics or biology. Maybe botany, who knows. I definitely want to minor in something artsy though, oddly enough. Fashion or sculpting, 3D stuff. What about you?” There was a softness to her voice. A light, airy trill, like a fairy or something. Not what I expected. She blinked and it hit me that she asked a question.

“I uh, um, nothing yet. Something with computers or like…tech I guess.” Katlyn nods.

“Well good luck with that. Hopefully neither of us mess up finals.” She smiles. There was something off about her smile. I needed to ask her. Push past the awkwardness and ask.

“Why were flunking?” If I could cut the sudden change in atmosphere. Her whole body seemed tense. She bent the straw in her drink. I could see she was trying to find the right words.

“I had to step out of a school for a bit. There were…issues with…peers.” Her gaze moved to the window again. Lightening flashed suddenly, thunder following a few moments behind.

“They called it a mental breakdown. Isn’t that dark? Stress was too much, a lot of noise, I went to places I regret.” She smiled again. It was empty, a mask keeping whatever demons she was obviously hiding.

Who is this? Who is this girl sitting across from me?

“Sorry,” She said out of the blue.

“For what?”

“Bringing all this up. It’s not me to just dump some sob story. But it’s fine. It’s all fine now. I’m better.” Katlyn faced me, the same empty grin placed on her face.

She smiles like she’s about to cry.

“It’s alright. It’s probably good to get it all out of your system,” I finally responded. A laugh forces itself out of her throat.

“You have no idea.” She was right. I had no idea. And I never did. The words, the whispers, Tommy…

The rain let up.

“I need to get going. My parents expected me to get home after the storm.” Katlyn stood, grabbing her bag. I didn’t move. I didn’t say anything.

“See you around.” And with that, he was gone.

She never even touched her milkshake.

 

Sèance

The winding road was scattered with dead leaves and cracked cobblestone. The carriage bucked and swayed with each collusion to the rough path, as it slowly snaked its way up to its destination. A small, two story Victorian home worn by age and misuse. It was the lone tenant on that patch of land, over grown grass tickling the walls. A rotting roof topped the estate. An unkept porched introduced any guests, cobwebs and dust bunnies littering the floor.

The carriage stopped with a skittered halt and a whiney of the horses. The frail passenger stepped out, a dark midnight bonnet rested on top of her faded curls. With a shaky breath she made her way up the porch, knocking on the scratched ancient door. It opened slowly, the rusty hinges crying in agony. A mess of ebony locks appeared from inside.

“Mrs. Maron?” A boy no older than seventeen asked. The woman nodded, immediately pushing a small satchel of coins into his hands. He nodded and beckoned her inside.

“Who would you like to communicate with?” He asked.

“My…my son Charlie.” Her voice was sullen and drawl, as if it were being slowly dragged across the floor.

“And how long has he been deceased?”

“A year.” She let out a strangled cry, holding back a river of tears. The boy placed a hand on her shoulder, helping her into a dusty chair, ripped and dethreaded.

“Would you like something to drink?” He asked her. She nodded no.

“Please. I just want to talk to him. Just one more time. Please,” She begged. He nodded.

“Wait right here.” He left her in the dark room, chilled from the stale fall weather. The insides of the house creaked and groaned as often as the woman’s slow sobs. He returned shortly, with another boy his age, this time with hair like a plentiful wheat farm. He smiled sympathetically.

“Good evening Mrs. Maron. Thank you for traveling so far to see us.” The old woman looked at him, raising a boney, tremoring hand to him.

“So…you can talk to the…?” She couldn’t finish her sentence.

“I can channel them. Some words or sentences can get through.” He shrugged sheepishly.

“How do you do it?” The woman asked. The fair headed boy shrugged again.

“We suspect that I have a small…opening between life and death. When I was born I had no breath or heartbeat, but suddenly came back,” He answered. The woman looked at him in awe.

“Shall we start?” The other asked, pulling a small leather book from his vest. They all nodded, the woman desperately, as the light haired one laid flat on the ground. The dark-haired boy kneeled near his head, her at his side. He read softly from the book’s ancient words with an even older tongue. The air was deathly still, the heartbeats of the three almost palpable in the thick atmosphere. Nothing happened, at first. He spoke louder, but still nothing.

The light-haired boy twitched. Eyes shut tight, his chest convulsed, limbs unsteady and erratic as it slapped the hard wood floor, head rolling side to side. From the walls bangs and clangs ricocheted in between the boards and dust, as if something was trying to burst from the inner workings of the dilapidated house. A chair and a footstool slammed to the ground. The woman screamed.

“Please steady yourself!” The boy with dark hair commanded her, pressing a hand to the other boy’s chest.

“Charlie Maron! If there is a Charlie Maron please come through! It is your mother! Charlie Maron!” The flaxen boy gasped and went stiff. Whispers and hisses of unintelligible words slipped through the air. The light-haired boy pressed a straight and locked arm into Maron’s lap, fingers twisted into his palm.

“Mama?” he croaked, the words clawing from deep in his person trying to reach the surface. She gasped.

“Charlie?”

“I’m-I’m ok Mama. I’m in a better place.” Tears sprung in her eyes, swearing she could hear her late son’s voice.

“I love you so much, sweetheart.” She wrapped her wrinkled hands around the boy’s rigid fingers.

“I-I love you too Mama. I have to go. I can’t k-keep talking.” The boy spasmed again.

“Release!” The ebony haired one slapped his hand on the other’s chest, hard. The boy snapped out of it, sitting up and coughing.

“You’re back?” The boy with inky curls asked. He nodded, still trying to push air into himself.

Mrs. Maron left weeping but smiling. She was finally at peace knowing her boy was. She gave out a few final thank yous, which the boys took graciously. The two watched the carriage disappear down the horizon. The one with light hair rubbed his chest, scowling at the other one. The ebony boy smirked.

“Did I hit you hard?” he mocked.

“You did. I thought you said you weren’t going to do that.” The two stepped back inside as the dark one chuckled, shutting the door.

“Well you told me you weren’t going to roll around the floor like some frightened pup. I improvised.”

There was a small thump inside one of the walls. The light-haired boy moved a large cushioned chair. He ran his finger down a small slit in the wallpaper, clicking open a camouflaged door. A small and sickly-looking male, a few years junior to the other two, stumbled out into the living room, red faced and wheezing.

“Have both of you forgotten I don’t have much air in there!?” he yelled.

“Oh relax, will you? Your stunt was impressive this session. Focus on that.” The dark-haired boy slapped the sickly boy’s back.

“Why was she here so long?” he asked, panting.

“She was grateful is all,” The flaxen boy replied, kneeling to undo wires around the furniture leg.

“For an empty promise,” he mumbled. The dark curled one chuckled.

“Ah come now. Have more faith in ghosts.”

 

Last Encounter

I was used to an independent life. I got up, ate, showered, dressed, headed to work and home. It suited me, and everyone around me respected my privacy. It was nice for once there was no hard questions, no casual interviews or drillings about my habits. I liked it.

Tonight, I decided to treat myself a bit. While my coworkers went out drinking to celebrate a breakthrough, I picked a more subdued means of partying: A small café near my apartment. I sat down in the peeling leather booths about to order my usual: a fresh scone and a cinnamon latte. As I was about to sink into the dim and calm atmosphere, waiting for service, a porcelain cup sat at the edge of the table. One of the staff had served a chai green tea, still steaming. I furrowed my brows, trying to catch the retreating waiter.

“I didn’t order this,” I called out.

“I did.” My veins went still. Every inch of my skin became taught as I felt the familiar touch of long callused fingers land my shoulder. I almost instinctively reached up if I wasn’t rigid in terror. He removed his hand, sitting across from me, with his own drink. Black coffee.

“Or were you also lying about your favorite drink?” He smiled at me as if we were old friends catching up. But I could see past his wholesome façade. The tight anger in his lips, the smug squint in his eyes, the excitable twitch in his fingers.

I didn’t answer him. I slowly reached my hand for my jacket pocket. I heard the muffled cock of a gun underneath the table. He chuckled.

“Wow. Either I’ve gotten better or your just rusty. Now be a good girl and put both hands flat on the table.” His voice was stone, steady and cold with that heavy scratch right at the back of the throat. I hesitated, but as he pushed the muzzle into my inner thigh I followed his orders. I knew how this could end. He would never shoot me where it killed but where it hurt.

“Maxwell please-“

“You don’t get to talk anymore. You are just going to show that pretty little smile and nod like…well like there isn’t a Glock aimed in between your legs.” He chuckled and smiled at me again. I fell silent again, letting a bob in my throat slip past me. He tilted his head, catching it.

“I never thought I would get to see how scared you are. I mean thinking back, seeing you for the first time, I could not sense one ounce of fear in your eyes. No alarm for those five months. Then again, I wasn’t at my most alert with you. I guess was just so distracted by your,” His eyes darted downwards for a moment, “assets.” Maxwell dragged his teeth across his chapped lips. Everything about him was a bit more disheveled. His hair was more coarse and unmade, nails bitten raw, the slight color of purple bags under his eyes.

“I shouldn’t have been so distracted. I’m a man whose made many enemies, on my side and in yours. When a beautiful woman with a sharp wit and the brains to match decides to flirt with me of all people at that party, red flags should’ve been raised. But they weren’t. They never were. I guess you’re just that good.” He paused, letting the sounds of coffee being stirred and clicking computer keys consume us. My gaze flicker to the moon shaped scar on his cheek. Maxwell ran his pinky down it.

“Like it? I could have gotten it removed, easily, but I needed something to remind me of you to fuel my rage induced manhunt. You’re a slippery one, I’ll give you that. You went from bureau to bureau in the past two years, different names, different addresses, different preferences…” he gestured to the tea with his free hand.

“But I finally caught up to you. And now, I want answers.” I didn’t respond to him. And I wasn’t going to smile for him either. I was going to stare the bastard down with my jaw clenched, waiting for the minutes to tick back.

“We’re going to play a game. And don’t think you can forfeit it either because I gave very specific instructions to the wait staff about no interruptions. The rules are simple, I ask a question, you say yes or no. I don’t want some long-winded speech or sob filled explanation, just yes or no. Understood?” He leaned forward waiting for my answer. I squinted, not knowing if this was a trick or not. He laughed.

“God, you follow orders almost too well. No, I’m not trying to permanently disable you with confusion, yet at least. Simon says you can talk now. So, do you understand?” I didn’t answer him at first, but with a gun aimed at me and a countdown, I conceded.

“Yes,” I mumbled.

“You’re already following the rules, good. Now let’s see, what to answer first…?” He played with the straw in his drink.

“Is you real name Abigail?”

“No.”

“Is any of the names the real one?”

“No.”

“Well that’s a given, but just making sure. When you broke all of my trust and faith in you were you working for the FBI?”

“No.”

“CIA?”

“No.” He paused, twisting his mouth back and forth.

“BAU?” I sighed and looked down at the table. His eyes lit up along with his smile.

“Behavioral analysist. Interesting. Is there a file about me somewhere in the database?”

“Yes.”

“Was it Agent Palmer that sent you?”

“Why would I tell you that?” I snapped, trying to restrain my voice. He clicked his tongue.

“You should know by now that I don’t care the who and why and how. That’s trivial to me, so no I won’t go and assassinate the commanding officer. All I care about is you. Now, Palmer?” I huffed.

“No.”

“Samson?”

“No.”

“Docker?”

“You are not going to get it,” I responded, considering the number of higher ranked leaders that could have sent me.

“And you need to stop interrupting the game. Remember, I have the upper hand, well more like lower hand.” He snickered, covering his laugh with his palm. I clenched my nails into the table. I wasn’t as scared anymore, and I wasn’t going to let any remaining fear show.

“You know I learned to accept death a long time ago. Long before I met you.”

“That doesn’t mean you welcome it. You just understand it’s going to happen. That I do know. And you’re getting bored of the simple stuff, honestly I am too, so let’s get to the meat, shall we?” I shrugged.

“Go ahead,” I replied. His eyes narrowed as his smile became wider.

“Did you love me?” He asked. I widened my eyes.

“What?”

“Did you fall for me, were you smitten, head over heels, obsessed, adored, did you love me? Yes or no?” He was enjoying all of this but the glint of pure glee in his eye was coming full force. I stared at him. I had to give an answer. One answer. And I was damn glad to give it.

“No.” For once in this entire night, the atmosphere flipped. His snarky demeanor washed away in his face as I let out my own ego filled smirk. His frown lines reached all the way to his scar.

“You’re lying.”

“I’m not.”

“Yes, you are. You cannot just sit there and-and say that after every kiss, every conversation, after five damn months of being in my bed you are not going to lie and say you didn’t love me.” His teeth were clenched together as he pushed the gun further up my thigh. But I knew he wasn’t going to shoot. Not now anyway. I crossed my arms.

“I’m not lying. I would never fall for a murderous black-market crony. Don’t get mad at me because you gave your heart to an unreciprocated enemy.”

“I did not-!” He was ready to lunge at me. The entire café was staring at us now from all the commotion. Maxwell stopped himself. I saw where his eyes were. Straight at the small blinking light in my bag. He snatched it, and I didn’t even try to retrieve it. It didn’t matter. He smiled awkwardly at the patrons, soothing them into thinking this was some marital dispute. Right now, I think he wished it was.

He stared at the small device. A simple but effective alert machine connected to my new headquarters.

“You don’t have a gun, do you?” He asked.

“No.”

“Just a distraction to press this?”

“Yep. Should be here soon.” I gazed at the clock on the wall. The countdown to back up was ticking down. Maxwell laughed under his breath.

“Sharp wit, with brains to match.” He looked up at me. I grabbed the tea, tipped it to him, and took a sip.

Macchiato Heartstrings

Darius was never fan of coffee. It served its purpose well enough, but he didn’t enjoy the flavor or feel of coffee. He just liked that it kept him caffeinated until noon. A shot of energy was much nicer than a shot of espresso.

Still, he could just brew his coffee at home. Heat up a Pop Tart or some store-bought treat. Why did he go to Joe’s Cup every morning?

Brandon. Brandon was the reason he came every day. He was Darius’ fellow classmate. They only shared two or three classes, but in those fleeting hours during school Darius fell, and he fell hard. And now he’s here, sipping on dark energy he doesn’t like just so he can gawk and drool at a boy who doesn’t even know he exists.

Darius sat down two tables behind Brandon, their seats facing each other. Brandon was sipping on some fancy French breakfast drink, a warm croissant next to him, reading a book. A croissant, that was so much cooler than Darius’ faky scone. He can’t strike up a conversation about pastries when Brandon’s is surely superior. It wouldn’t matter anyway. If he got the courage to go and talk to him it would all fizzle away once the two made eye contact. A hazel brown swirl that Darius just melted for. He could almost see them right now.

Because he can…

Wait, did Brandon just catch him staring? Crap he did, look away man! Look away!

He ducked his head down quickly, a tomato red dancing across his face. Great, he’s too nervous for his own good AND he looks like a stalker! Darius waited a solid thirty seconds before peeking back at Brandon just to make sure he didn’t leave or was thoroughly creeped out. He wasn’t at his chair. But he didn’t leave. He was coming towards him. Oh God oh God oh God oh God oh Goooood…

“Hey,” Brandon said, smiling at him. Damn those eyes. Jesus, that smile!

“Hey,” Darius replied, less confident. Brandon gestured to Darius’ drink.

“What’d you get?” He asked. Darius looked down at it.

“Oh. Um…I…don’t…know. I just asked for something strong.” He already looked like a loser and a stalker to Brandon, what could a poser title add?

To his surprise though, Brandon laughed. It was a soft, airy chuckle that danced across Darius’ racing heartbeat.

“I don’t know what I got either. I just asked for something sweet.” He chuckled again. Darius laughed softly with him.

“Mind if I sit?” He asked, gesturing to the empty seat across the table.

“Not at all.” Darius smiled sheepishly. He sat down.

“Darius, right?” Brandon asked. He smiled wider.

“Yeah.”

Ok. He takes it back.

Coffee is the greatest thing the universe has ever made.

 

Oliver

One month, six days, and four hours. I have been listening to Kate chatter on and on about this Oliver guy. Ever since we got back from winter break, two desks behind me in public speaking class it has been the same sentences over and over and over.

“Oliver has such soft hair. I love running my hands through it.”

“Oliver’s eyes are such a pretty black color. They’re so shiny!”

“Oliver is getting stronger every day. He’s a real help with chores.”

It would then follow with her little cronies sighing like ditzy fangirls. I had enough. After class that day I walked straight up to her.

“I want to see this Oliver dude.” Kate raised an eyebrow at me.

“Oliver dude?” She asked.

“Don’t play dumb. That stupid boyfriend you keep drooling about! I want to see him!” I shoved a finger into her chest, keeping my stance firm and demanding. She smiled at me.

“Yeah I can introduce you two. He’s a bit shy, but he warms up to people quickly.”

Soon we were both riding shoulder to shoulder on the city bus. I waited for her to sit up or pull the stop cord soon. But we kept going. And going. And going some more. An hour later the bustling metropolis I was used to was fading behind us, turning into small suburbs.

“You two live in a house?” I turned to her confused. Kate looked out the window, checking where we are.

“Oh, no. I can’t afford it. Plus, Oliver needs special housing.” She turned back to her book without another word.

“What do you mean special-“ before I could finish the bus took a sharp turn down a dirt and gravel road. Street signs and grocery stores were replaced with thick foliage closing in on both sides. A canopy of branches and vines arched over us, letting only speckles of light reach down. But even the literal sun couldn’t brighten the cold and dark forest on the edge of town.

“You uh…you live out here?” I squeaked out.

“Yep. My grandfather built a small cabin in it years ago. And it’s perfect for Oliver. Cool, secluded, surrounded by trees, and not too many people.” She smiled at me nonchalantly, as I screamed curses at myself inside my head. Oliver was no longer just some boy toy she was head over heels with. He was some black eyed antisocial weirdo who lived in isolating woods.

Or possibly someone much, much worse.

We finally got off, swallowing my gut instinct as I watched my only quick way of escape drive away from us. Kate kept walking, cutting off into a small trail away from the main road. I followed reluctantly.

“So, um, what’s Oliver like exactly?” I asked to fill the dreading silence as we walked farther and farther into the dense woods.

“Well besides being shy he’s stoic, quiet, a bit on the bigger sized, very rugged, and is loyal and devoted to me as much as I am to him.” She stopped in front of a one story run down cabin. The only thing keeping me and Oliver separate is a small chipped door, scratched and clawed to pieces. I swallowed thickly.

“What do you mean…de-uh-devoted?” I asked. She pulled out her keys.

“He protects me, he loves me, he would make sure I’m safe before himself…” Kate opened the door, beckoning to go first. I stepped inside, my eyes darting to the first thing I noticed. A kitchen counter. Covered in blood.

“He would kill for me.” The door slammed shut. My brain stopped working. Flight or faster flight kicked in. I ran chest first into the door screaming my head off.

“Let me out! Let me out! I don’t want to die by your cannibal boyfriend!” I twisted at the doorknob but stopped myself when I heard it. Panting. A steady, deep panting. I turned around faced with sharp teeth, those dark soulless eyes that pierced me, and…paws.

“Oliver is a fucking DOG!?” I yelled. Kate kneeled to scratch at his light tan fur striped gray.

“He is not just a dog. He’s a dire wolf. I found him by the cabin with a hurt leg and took him in.”

“But…but the blood and the kill comment…” I mumbled.

“He hunts down rodents and squirrels that infest the place. I skin them and cook them up for him. I haven’t had a chance to clean. So no, I do not have an axe wielding maniac for a boyfriend.” She crossed her arms.

“Does…everyone know this?” I stepped back still a nervous about the huge dog wolf thing.

“Yes, because the speech I had to give a month ago was about my experience nursing an animal back to health and the precautions of doing so. Do you not remember that?”

“I uh guess not.” I darted my eyes away not wanting to admit I slept through all of it. She rolled her eyes.

“Well congratulations. You’ve met him. Now are you going to hang out and help me play catch with him in the back?” She asked pointing towards a rear door.

“Do I have a choice?” I retorted.

“The bus doesn’t come back for another two hours so not really.” I sighed.

“Sure, I’ll hang out with your…dog.”

“Dire wolf.”

“It’s a huge dog will you just take the yes?”

“Don’t get all snippy!” She smirked at me.

“I wasn’t the one who almost headed for the hills over a wounded pet.”