Chapter 253

               Nick ignored the ringing of his phone as he stared at the ceiling. He’d made the necessary calls once things had calmed down: letting his friends know that he was safe being at the top of the list. There were also certain arrangements to make, followed by checking in with Jerome and Eliza, and then, of course, he’d had to phone Ms. Pips and drop the big news. Everyone else could think Nathaniel died in the attack on Lander, a victim of his own involvement with dangerous people. She had to know the truth, though. Nick might be willing to square off with armies, trained Supers, and sociopaths, but even he refused to try and deceive Ms. Pips.

                After everything was taken care of, he had come home and slept for fourteen hours straight. When he finally roused himself, Eliza was on the verge of calling a doctor to make sure he hadn’t dropped into another dream-coma. Nick wasn’t especially put out by the nap; he knew too well that all power came with a price. For what he’d been given, a day of extra strong rest didn’t seem like a bad trade.

                He closed his eyes and tried to remember the world as he’d been able to see it. The golden lines, the fluctuations in probability, all of chance laid out like a road map before him. Even remembering it gave his non-augmented brain a headache. Nick had seen enough drunks and junkies to recognize his behavior for what it was though. He was chasing a high. For a small fraction of his life, he’d been a real Super. The kind that could actually stand on par with his friends. It was tempting, so impossibly tempting, to try and run after that sensation. If that were his potential, perhaps, with enough training and effort, he could get there on his own.

                Nick rose from his bed and headed into his kitchen, grabbing a lukewarm pot of coffee as soon as he entered. There was no room in his life for thoughts of going after it; that was addict talk. Globe himself had said the kid pushed people beyond what their body could normally handle. Nick refused to waste years of his life chasing some power that was probably physically beyond his reach. Even if he managed to achieve a sloppy, bastardized version of it, everyone knew the first high was always the best. Each instance afterward was nothing more than a pale imitation.

                Taking a sip of his terrible coffee, Nick glanced at the newspaper, which was still covering the attack on Lander. He was waiting until the afternoon—when Sasha’s memorial was over—to go check on his friends. So far, they’d been holding up okay, but the uncertainty and restlessness was eating away at them. Nick had made it a point to come around and be just the right amount of annoying so as to keep their minds busy. After everything that had happened, no one seemed concerned that a wash-out was hanging around still enrolled students at their dorm. Priorities had, rightly, shifted.

                Summer would be the worst for them. Sitting around, thumbs up their asses, unable to do anything while wondering what would become of Lander. It was going to be torture, and not even Nick was sure how to handle it.

                There was a brisk knock on the door, and Nick went over to check through the peephole. He was surprised to see Mr. Transport there, mostly because he couldn’t really recall ever seeing the teleporter bother with a thing like knocking. Or doors.

                Nick eased open the door and invited his guest in. Whatever had brought Mr. Transport to his home, he knew it was at least going to be interesting.

*             *             *

                Angela’s life had become boxes. Boxes littered her home as she changed after the funeral, slipping into a tank-top and shorts that matched the warm spring season. It had been a long time since she went to a memorial for someone dying in battle, but the old habits came rushing back as soon as she left the place. Comfy clothes, a glass of wine, and bad television that didn’t demand any thought from her heavy mind. Much as she hated to admit it, this was a routine she would probably need more in her future years.

                She’d been home for less than half an hour when there was a knock on her door. Angela hustled off the couch and pulled open the door without bothering to see who was on the other side. Chad stood there, not at all shocked by the door whipping open, looking as stoic as ever.

                “I hope I’m not bothering—” Chad was silenced as Angela leaned in and gave him a firm kiss, pulling him through the door and slamming it behind them.

                “You’re not bothering me at all,” Angela said when she finally released Chad from her grasp. “This is a happy surprise. I figured you’d be with your roommates until we pack up the truck tonight.”

                “It’s my intention to spend much of the day with them; however, I also wanted to see you. The knowledge that you are leaving soon fills me with a strange . . . . I’m going to miss you.” Chad gave up on trying to explain the exact sensation the thought of Angela leaving filled him with; he’d noticed that many people were happy with just a summary of what emotion was eliciting the response. “And, to be frank, after Sasha’s service, I find myself unnaturally preoccupied with worry over what might become of you out there.”

                “I’m going to die,” Angela said simply. “Maybe it will be in fifty years, with grandkids around me and a bottle of scotch in my hands. Maybe it will be next week, when some prick with more power than brains gets off a lucky shot. We’re all going to die, Chad, and Heroes go sooner than most. Don’t waste time worrying about when the end is coming, and just try to enjoy what you have right here and now.” She leaned in and kissed him again, but for once, it was not the fierce affection that defined her. It was gentle and firm, something to show that, under all the bluster, she really did care for Chad and his strangeness.

                “You take your mortality better than most.”

                “I’ve had a lifetime to make peace with it. But, if it makes you feel better, I’m interning under a real beast. Even I’m a little scared of Unseelie; she has a crazy reputation. I probably won’t die that quickly in her care. Besides, I’m pretty tough on my own.”

                “As one who has sparred against you, I am all too aware. I am glad to know the events of Lander’s attack didn’t derail your graduation or internship, though,” Chad said.

                “A few people tried to make a fuss, but since I was technically at gunpoint every time I used my power, and all the witnesses except Shane are dead, they couldn’t find anything to throw at me that had a chance of sticking. It probably helps that, after what happened, everyone wants a show of force, and I’m both a force and a show all rolled into one.”

                “I have no doubt that the criminal world will soon be filled with terrified whispers of Charon, the golden-suited warrior laying waste to all who oppose her.”

                “Keep talking that sexy and I’m not letting you go back to your dorm.” Angela pulled her boyfriend in close and held him there. After tonight, when she brought the few belongings she could to her new home and started her Hero life, nothing would be the same. Even things with Chad wouldn’t stay this sweet and simple. So, for the short time she still had, Angela hugged him tight.

                Even she needed a few moments of rest, now and again.