Epione could not contain her nerves. Soft violet tendrils of Affect wafted out of her. She concentrated, pouring every ounce of her focus so the colors would not overwhelm her. The end result was like squeezing her hand around a faucet — streams of color wriggled out from her in violent sprays. She worried that those emotions would overwhelm someone, but she knew if anyone felt them it would only be a passing echo. Better that than for her to be cripple by them.
Saw Off had no such problems. She stood next to Epione, her core a bright ruby flame that cast off smaller wisps of passionate, seductive red and bright brown tufts of stability. Saw Off felt in her element and she felt horny, that Epione knew for sure.
What Epione did not know was why they were riding this elevator together down to the third basement floor of the Foundation HQ. Saw Off showed up at her apartment and demanded that she’d come along, and so Epione had.
“Um,” Epione started. “What are we doing?”
Saw Off pulled out a cigarette — a real one — and lit it up with a lighter from her pocket. “We’re bonding.”
“Bonding?” Epione asked.
“Yeah, we’re bonding.” Saw Off took a drag and offered Epione a smoke, but Epione politely declined. “We’ve got something in common, now.”
“We do?” Epione was entirely unsure of what Saw Off and her had in common other than their gender. She searched Saw Off’s colors for some sign of what she meant, since the girl’s expression was steely, and her face turned away. The only indication she got from Saw Off was a ribbon of violet affection and light blue responsibility.
“Yeah. We both lost the same man.”
Ah, she meant Flashfire. Epione couldn’t help but be tickled at that. “I suppose that we do have something in common, then.” The thought of Flashfire cut into her heart, spilling out dark tendrils of pain, even though Saw Off’s candor amused Epione. What an odd cocktail to no longer love him but to hurt over losing him. With a sprinkle of hilarity on top.
Saw Off’s colors shifted to a darker shade. “Maybe this is stupid, trying to pretend we got something to talk about. Christ, what would we talk about? Look at you. You’re all prim and perfect. No wonder he stayed with you so long.” Green strands drifted from Saw Off’s Affect.
Epione came to a startling realization. “You’re jealous of me.”
Saw Off side eyed Epione, and from her colors, she was a little taken aback. “Well… yeah.”
Epione couldn’t contain her laughter. She saw that this made Saw Off angry but she couldn’t keep from laughing. She nearly doubled over and let the yellow joy flood from her.
“What’s so funny…” Understanding bloomed in Saw Off’s aspect, in bright colors. “Are you jealous of me?”
Epione could not reply, her laughter choked her. She might’ve used her power to restrain herself but why bother? Soon enough, Saw Off joined in on her laughter, and they laughed until the elevator opened on a dimly lit basement hallway.
Once she’d recovered, Epione asked, “Where are you taking me, anyway?”
“Oh, there’s a little club. We meet down here and drink and shoot the shit. Play cards. Smoke. All that jazz. I thought you might be interested.” Saw Off said all this as if it was matter of fact that she should meet anyone down here. As if it was inevitable one would form. As if dank basements were not complete until a few thugs took up positions in one of the rooms to bet on cards.
“Why did you think I would be interested?” Epione asked.
“Shit, girl, I dunno! Figured you were probably bored hanging around the lovebirds all day.” Saw Off made a gagging noise.
“You’re just mad that Bedevil snagged him before you could.” Epione admitted that she was pressing boundaries a bit with that one, but she wanted to see how Saw Off reacted to a barb.
Saw Off glowered at her, but her colors betrayed a flash of humor. She settled into a grin. “Yeah, well, can you blame me?”
Epione could not. She’d spent many months trying to convince Gabe that he was, well, handsome and muscular and charming, but the poor boy’s Affect was all dark from negative emotions for so long. It wasn’t until recently she saw how bright he’d become. That made her happy.
Saw Off slammed open a door and shouted: “‘Sup bitches!” and strode into the room. Epione trailed behind her, unsure whether the group would take that greeting well or not.
Epione was shocked at the members of this illicit poker group. First and foremost was Archimedes and Linear, a handle of whiskey between them, accompanied by Lugs and Remise who was shuffling the cards, and to Epione’s utter confusion, Mr. Gold.
Saw Off sat in the chair next to him and practically purred. She leaned into his shoulder. “Hey, daddy.”
Mr. Gold leveled a gaze that would wither plant life at Saw Off, but surprisingly, he had nothing to say to her remark.
Saw Off leaned over the chair and beckoned Epione over. “Stop being a scaredy cat!”
Epione sat down next to Saw Off and studied the people gathered in the group. Archimedes seemed a bit pissed she was even here. “You know she can read all of our emotions, right? She’ll know who has a good hand and who doesn’t!”
Linear seemed a little worried that someone was going to find out about his secret all the time, but Epione had always known, so it didn’t matter, and she wasn’t a tattletale. “I’m sure she’ll be fine, I mean, I can detect subtle changes in your expression and I know all of your tics.
Remise grinned as she always did. “And I can hear when your heartbeat changes, so I know when you’re excited.”
Lugs gave that little salute of his. “We’re only betting Monopoly money anyway.”
Mr. Gold seemed preoccupied with getting Saw Off to stop feeling his abs and so did not add to the conversation.
“Deal me in?” Epione asked.
VOLUME FIVE: COMPULSION TO MOVE