cemetery; 4:30 am
Somehow, I was always brought back to cemeteries.
The teleportation had left Victor visibly shaken, and it had made him accept my excuse — that the door had transported us — more easily than expected. To his credit, he recovered quickly, scanning the cemetery for any threats. After concluding that the robots hadn’t followed, he’d beckoned me towards a large scrap pile.
“We can always use more supplies,” he said.
“What good are these rusted materials?” I held up a particularly slimy pipe.
Victor shrugged. “Nora’s got a good eye for construction. She’ll find something to do with it.”
Nora, as in my sister Nora? She’d never liked spending time in Innovation labs as a kid, but she had also been eight years old.
“People change,” Victor said softly, “but the important things stay the same.”
I smiled, finding my eyes watery, and looked away.
I couldn’t help but keep glancing at a particular gravestone, which was a pale, soothing lavender. Leaving the scrap pile behind, I approached it carefully, my eyes focusing on the engraved placard.
Rey Windsor. Beloved philanthropist, mother and wife. Quiet strength is iron clad.
Mom. This was Mom’s grave.
I couldn’t hold the tears back any longer. I wondered if Mom had discovered I was gone, yet. I had made her the mother of two disappeared children. She’d barely survived Nora’s disappearance, and now I’d made her deal with two.
I might have my magic back, but I was no closer to bringing my sister home. What if I never managed to bring us back?
“Nora did the same thing when she saw this gravestone,” he said quietly. “She still comes back to visit it.”
Victor looked at me curiously, and that was the last straw — I felt my face crumple, and all the barriers I’d maintained for the past decade, all the anger, all the bitterness…
“It should have been me,” I sobbed. “I should have been the one to stay, not her.”
I was hysterical, now. I didn’t know how loud or soft I was being, and I didn’t care. I could feel snot running down my nose as my chest heaved from the force of my sobs, and I was vaguely aware of Victor pulling me close.
I hugged him instinctively, crying into his shoulder.
“No,” he whispered. “It should have been me.”
hideout; 6 pm
Back at the base, we were debriefed by Nora. I hurriedly crushed the flowers and coated Raf’s hands and neck. The flowers, if they worked, would take some time to heal Raf, so Victor and I were sent to bed to rest. After a fitful few hours’ sleep, I woke, too restless to go back to sleep.
Nora and Kel were out on another scouting expedition, and I made my way down to the training room, eager to get some of the pent up energy out of my system. Down there, I found Victor neatly snapping blocks of wood in two and smiled. After our mission together, I felt more comfortable around him — I suppose blubbering and getting snot on a person will do that.
“Up for a match?” I asked, and Victor grinned.
As we sparred, I felt the thrum of magic in my veins. With each movement, I thought of a spell I could use to make me faster, stronger, to guarantee me a win. But I also saw Victor’s practiced grace, which I knew came from years of training, and, somehow, it felt like cheating to use magic to win this match.
So, instead, I used only my scant training, which was, er, insufficient to say the least. I attempted a kick to his gut, and Victor skirted aside, snapping his own leg under mine. I felt myself begin to fall and grabbed at the first thing I could for support — his shirt.
I stared upwards, breathing heavily. My own expression of surprise was mirrored in his eyes, and I was suddenly aware of how close we were. It would be so easy to reach up and —
He coughed and shifted away, extending a hand. I took it, allowing him to pull me to my feet.
“Um, I’m going to see if Nora’s back,” I said, hoping that my cheeks weren’t red.
He nodded, looking away, and I left, feeling uneasy and a bit giddy.
What had almost happened? Had I wanted it to happen?