I swear Doc is telepathic because he comes in already rubbing his temples. Like he knows! Like he knows I done fucked up. Which I did. “Why the hell is there a random girl face first in our couch?”
“Oh, shit, is she face down?” I ask, pulling my bowl out of the microwave. “Can you turn her over?”
“Can you turn her over?” he parrots. “No! No, I can’t turn her over because I’ve got groceries in my hand and you still haven’t explained who she is!”
Like I’m stepping around a land mine, I say, “Well, uh, she’s Bedevil.”
“She’s… Bedevil.” He looks down at her. He is computing this. The explosion is coming. “The telekinetic wonder kid of the west coast.”
“Yes, she is. So she can’t die on our couch, please turn her on her side.”
I shush him with a finger to my lips.
“What the FUCK,” Doc whispers.
“She followed me home after the Krater fight.” I pause and decide to tell him the truth. “She’s Kitsune, Doc.”
Doc rubs the bridge of his nose. “Is that… is that corn?”
“It is,” I say, spooning some into my mouth.
“May I have some?”
“Is that an avocado?” I ask, pointing at the avocado I can clearly see in his bag.
“Fuck you, you can’t have this avocado, it’s the first batch I saw in weeks, it cost nine dollars, it’s mine. And also because you put drunk Bedevil on our couch. Also because she knows who you are.” He glares at me, clutching his grocery bag to his chest.
“Then no corn for you.” I continue to eat my corn.
“Fine, you can have a quarter of the avocado. Don’t say I never did anything for you.” He sets his grocery bag on the counter. “What’s the plan for her?”
“I don’t know yet. I’ll wait until she wakes up, and figure out where to go from there.”
Doc puts his groceries in the fridge and starts to carve the avocado. “Tell you what, in the morning I’ll take off. I’ll let you figure out… this.” He waves his hand at Bedevil like she’s a fly. “I’ll be back in the evening.”
We share our corn and avocado, and then Doc leaves as promised, while I panic trying to figure out what I’m going to say to Bedevil.
I grab a shower real quick, washing the filth and dried blood from me, and the hot water relieves the pain of my nicks and bruises. I may have stood up to Krater and beaten him, but he still did a number on me. One of my ribs is definitely bruised. I dry off and absorb the heat standing in the room. The steam condenses mid-air around me, turning into a misty spray that coats the ground, cool to the touch.
I towel off and get dressed, and return outside.
Bedevil is standing in the hall, staring at me as I emerge from the shower.
The delicious scent of coffee lures me into the kitchen, where a fresh pot waits on our cheap coffee machine. Bedevil still can’t take her eyes off me. Her face betrays so many different emotions I can’t keep track of all of them, but she seems caught somewhere between grief, rage, and absolute elation.
I pour myself a cup. “Thank you.”
She stammers, shakes her head, and sighs. “You’re welcome. Do you have anything I can wear?” She gestures to her soaked clothes.
“Yeah, do you want a shower?” I ask.
She nods, so I escort her to my bathroom, and while she cleans off, I pick out a t-shirt and a pair of gym shorts, similar to what she’s already wearing. I stuff her currently soaked clothes in the dryer and start that up.
How am I going to explain who I am?
Well, how did I explain it to Maisa? I showed her the videos.
I hook my laptop up to the TV and wait for Bedevil to finish. I hear the bathroom door open and close again as she grabs the clothes I left for her, and then it opens after a few minutes, and she floats into the living room, her hair wet and dangling behind her back.
She sits next to me. We don’t speak for an eternity and I count my heartbeats, lost inside the black hole in my chest. One, two, three—
At last, she breaks our silence. “Mega.”
“It’s still Gabe. I’m not him.”
Bedevil frowns. “You… you look just like him. Your power. Your voice.” Tears fill her eyes. “I almost forgot the sound of your voice, but now that I know it, I know it’s you. It has to be you.”
“Well, I’m Gabe,” I say again. “I knew you wouldn’t get it.”
Bedevil groans in frustration. “Then help me get it. What are you? Who are you, if you’re not him?” She half slurs through her words. She’s still drunk.
“Here,” I say, clicking on the vlogs folder on my laptop, and open one of the last videos I ever watched there.
The video starts the same way as the others. Megajoule sits behind the same table with the same blue backdrop, wearing the same polo he always wears, looking as tired as he always looks. He’s got a pencil and notepad, and he’s looking over something on the paper.
Bedevil gasps and puts her hand over her mouth. Her voice is muffled behind her fingers as she speaks. “He looks… he looks awful.”
He starts to tap the pencil. A nervous tic, I guess.
“Tell me, Gabe, have you ever thought about what would happen if you fell into a black hole?”
No, no I have not, Julian. Bedevil stares in horror at her hero. Tears glisten in her eyes.
“A black hole is an object so dense that not even light can escape from its gravity, in case you need a refresher. If you were to see one, you’d think that maybe God poked a pencil in the fabric of the universe, or something.” He taps his pencil a little more. It’s kind of rhythmic, like a beat. I never thought about Megajoule as a musical person, but why wouldn’t he have been? Almost everyone loves music. He was a very smart man. He probably played an instrument or listened to symphonies for fun.
“And if you were to fall into one? Well, not into, but toward one?” He shakes his head. “All the models in the world wouldn’t prepare you for how terrifying that would be.”
“Oh, my God,” Bedevil says.
“Someone watching you would see your body hit the event horizon, and from there, your image would redshift into oblivion instead of continuing on. You’d keep falling, though.” The hand holding the notepad is trembling. “The howling dark would come up at you. An infinite abyss stretching further and further out. Light would wrap around the hole, and as you passed the horizon, the universe would actually fall away behind you. It would shrink and shrink into a pinprick until all around you is the dark.
“It might actually be calm, for a bit. Until you start to feel yourself stretching.” He stops tapping his pencil. “Spaghettification. Your molecules would get ripped apart into one string pulled down one path. One path that you can’t get off, one path taking you into the shadow. Forever. There is no escape from a black hole, Gabe.”
He locks eyes with me. Right at me. He taps his pencil in a weird pattern, and the video ends on an abrupt cut.
“I never knew what he was trying to tell me,” I say to Bedevil.
Bedevil doesn’t respond to me. She reaches out and scrolls the video back to where he’s first addressing me, and then pauses it so she can stare at his face.
And at last I understand.
The way she’s looking at him, the way she covers her mouth, the way she weeps for his memory. “You were in love with him.”
Bedevil squeaks. She closes her eyes. She breathes out a painful, ragged breath, and says, “Yes.”
I don’t even really know what to say to that. “Do you understand, though?”
“Yes.” Her eyes dart back and forth between him and me.
I chew on my lip, feeling that she really doesn’t.
“Will you do something? Will you shave? So I can see his face one more time? I know…” she pauses, swallows. “I don’t mean to offend you. I just… I want to see.” She’s got that face on again, like a dam about to explode.
Seeing her so busted, pity takes over. What the hell, I can just grow the beard back, right? I set my coffee down, resolve myself on the way to the bathroom, and get to chopping with the clippers Doc uses. I haven’t seen under my beard in awhile. My jaw surprises me.
Bedevil leans on the wall and watches as my beard comes off. If it weren’t for the incredibly strange circumstance, this would be homey and romantic. But she’s waiting for a man who’s been dead for six years.
“You’ve really been in love with him this long?” I ask.
Bedevil stammers, scowls, and looks away. “Not… not all this time. I’ve dated.”
“Wind Rider, right?” The tabloids would not shut up about them for an entire year, I remember that. It was my first taste of cape gossip. Hollywood faded; capes took over.
“Yeah.” Bedevil wrinkles her nose, shakes her shoulders, and crosses her arms. She’s pouting her bottom lip. “Let down.”
“Men,” I joke, finishing with the clippers and applying shaving cream to my face. I grab Doc’s cheap straight blade razor, hoping I’m not going to cut myself with it.
Bedevil chuckles. “Yeah, men.” She stares at me a little longer than she should. Like, when you’re on a bus and you glance at someone across the row, but you can’t linger too long otherwise you’re creepy? She’s doing the creepy thing. I mean, it is just us, but I get uncomfortable when someone looks at me too long. “Have… have you dated?”
I pause my shaving and shake my head. “Doc says I won the genetic lottery, what with being Megajoule’s clone and all, but it turns out all the genetics in the world don’t make you good at dating. Plus my hobby involves coming home bloody and broken on the regular, and I don’t think most girls can handle that sort of thing. Besides Kitsune, I haven’t really.”
She rubs her arm and looks away. “It must be hard.”
“Do you have a family?” I ask, washing my face off.
“A mom. In San Diego. Do you have-” She stops herself, I guess realizing that’s a stupid question.
“Like I told you, Doc’s the closest thing I’ve got. I guess the other Underground members, too.” Only now, I’m not a part of that family anymore. That memory stings.
I let her get a good look at my shaved face. It’s not a pretty job, I didn’t use a close shave razor, just my clippers, but it’s good enough to show my actual jaw.
Bedevil comes close and studies me. It’s hard to forget that we almost had our own romance as Home Run and Kitsune. The way she looks at me, the way I look at her. There’s more than just Megajoule here.
She’s got nice hazel eyes, a full smile dawns on her lips, and I can almost see down her shirt that’s too big for her… and what am I saying? I need a distraction. My heart’s thumping, and I can hear all the blood screaming through my veins.
“I probably look a lot younger,” I manage. My head is blazing.
“He had crow’s feet, around the eyes. And laugh lines.” She gingerly reaches up for my glasses, and I let her take them off. “You don’t.” She traces fingers along my face. The tips of her fingers are soft and cool, they feel nice running along my cheek. My natural inclination is to just let her get her fill but she falters. The smile dies out. “I’m sorry, I’m touching all over your face.”
“No, no, it’s fine.” I place my hand on her arm. She doesn’t retreat. “Ruby, I’m sorry I ran. I didn’t know if you’d understand.”
“No, it’s okay. I get it.” She’s not backing away, in fact, I think she’s getting closer.
With care and gentle touch, she reaches up and puts her hands on my cheek. She pulls me in, and I let her. Our lips and the tips of our noses brush, then she pushes into a full kiss.
She’s soft, she’s so soft, her body practically melts under my energetic touch.
She grips my arm and pulls me back to my bedroom. I let her drag me. Her hands search under my shirt; she shivers and gasps while rubbing my chest. I raise my arms to let her take off my shirt, like every time before in the lab, where they laid me on a metal table and prod at me. She’s prodding me, tenderly, but still prodding.
“When did you get shot?” she asks, running a finger around the wound on my right hip. Her eyes search my chest, fall on the hole in my upper shoulder. “Here, too?” Her fingers are soft, gently caressing around my injuries.
I can feel the blood flowing through her veins with my heat sense, pumping faster and faster. Her cheeks flush, her body blazes, her breathing is erratic. She gets on her tiptoes. Her lips run up my jaw. “Please,” she breathes into my ear. “Please, fuck me.”
I exhale. “Okay,” I whisper back.
She kisses my chest and my door closes by itself: by her power. The buckle of my belt comes undone all on its own, but she’s working the button of my jeans with her hands. She kisses my chin all at the same time. How is she so good at multi-tasking?
She pulls her shirt off in one move. She’s got cute, pink nipples, and she’s so tiny I’d call her frail. Her hair is long and golden, framing her face perfectly. She’s gorgeous.
She takes her jeans off slower than her shirt, and she looks flustered. She’s wearing granny panties, not sexy at all. I struggle against a smile. She slips those off and she’s completely naked.
As I said, never seen a real naked girl. My eyes are popping out my skull, like that stupid cartoon wolf. Bedevil puts one knee on the bed between my legs and teases my boxers off. Her breathing quickens as they come off.
She crawls on top of me, locking eyes. I am on fire. Heart slamming against the walls of my chest. I’ve never been more aware of the blood in my body, and where it’s moving. She starts to kiss my neck and her hands go wild exploring me. I respond in kind. She’s soft, so soft.
She nibbles my ear and plants a kiss. She giggles and it’s all I can hear. “Touch me.”
I reach down and press my fingers on her. She gasps and squeaks. She’s already wet, grinding against my hand. She strokes me in kind.
We stay like this for a while, feeling each other. Her heart’s beating just as fast as mine. My heat sense tells me that she’s on fire as much as I am.
“I… want to…” she says.
“Yeah,” I answer.
She reaches back, straddles me, and rocks her hips so I slide into her.
She moves like its a dance, throwing her head back and moaning. She steadies herself with a hand on my chest and grinds hard. She never closes her eyes. She looks right at me, throws herself forward and kisses me passionately while still bouncing. I feel like I’m melting alive. Melting into her.
Instinct takes over, and I toss her off me and onto the bed, onto her back. She squeals in delight as I pounce her, and take over. She wraps her legs around me, pulls me into a kiss.
She pushes me back, wanting to look at me. I keep the rhythm going while she drinks me in.
“Mega,” she moans.
My heart stops pounding, and drops out, instead.
“Fuck me, Mega, please, fuck me,” she moans, putting her hand on my ass and pulling with each thrust.
I rip free of her, falling on my ass, scrambling back to the door. I am a ghost, I am not here. This isn’t happening to me, it’s happening to someone else.
“Oh my God, are you okay?” Bedevil asks. It hasn’t dawned on her yet.
But it does. It dawns on her like a bad sun on the day of a death. Whatever pleasure she felt is gone. “I’m… Oh my God. What did I just do?” She starts to panic. “What the fuck did I just do?”
I can barely speak. “You got what you wanted.”
She sits on her knees and looks down. Tears spill onto her thighs. She whispers something I can’t hear.
“What?” My arms are numb.
“I’m fucking sorry!” she screams. She floats from the bed with her power. Her clothes fly up to meet her and dress her in one fluid motion. She lands on her feet and stumbles to my door. “I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry. That’s the most fucked up thing I’ve ever done.”
I don’t know what to say. So I say nothing, which is probably not a smart move either. My body puts on pants. My ears roar. I’m resurfacing, rebooting. I’m trying to rip down the wall between me and my skin.
She stops before leaving. “I’ll… Oh my God, I’m fucking awful.”
“Don’t-” She holds a hand out. “Please.”
My body stops.
She balls her hand into a fist. “I’ll… what the fuck? What do I say? What do I do?”
“I don’t know,” I tell her.
She whirls around. She’s in anguish. I’ve never seen someone look so broken. “Why did they do this? Why did they pull him from the grave just to torture me?”
“They didn’t pull him from a grave, I’m my own person!” I have to be. I need to be.
Bedevil turns away and thumps her head on my wall. “This is all so fucked. That was the best sex I’ve ever had.”
And it’s not even because of me. “I’m sorry.”
“Why the fuck are you apologizing to me?”
God, I feel so worthless. Rage fills me, so white-hot my arms have no choice but to move. My hand slaps the wall. “I don’t know, I don’t know. I’m just never fucking enough for anyone, am I? Not even his fucked up sidekick.”
Bedevil is a puppy I just kicked. She sniffs and starts to cry like a kid who just got their hand slapped. “I’m sorry,” she mutters. “I’m sorry.”
The anger passes. I step away from her and rub my temples, ‘cause Doc told me that soothes pain. “No… I’m sorry, that was too far.”
“I’ll go, I’ll go,” she says, trembling and crying. She’s crying so hard snot’s running down her lips. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I am fucked up, you’re right. I’ll go, I shouldn’t have come here, I’ll leave you alone.” She shuffles out of my bedroom. After a minute, our door opens and closes.
My heart collapses into a black hole again. Gabe slips past the event horizon, leaving only Home Run in his place.