It didn’t hurt. It should hurt, it should be hell on earth, but it didn’t. Blaine tried to move his hand to touch where the blood was pouring from his side and found it would barely twitch. Dimly, somewhere deep down in his mind, he remembered all he’d learned about how people went into shock when they were seriously injured. It seemed being a Super didn’t change that aspect of his physiology, and given how much of his own flesh was strew about on the street, Blaine was actually quite thankful for that.
“No, God, please no.” A voice. A familiar voice. Casper. No, Hallow, when they were in costume. He was standing over Blaine, white mask flitting in and out of his sight. When Blaine could see him, Hallow looked panicked, his lean face creased in worry. From nearby an explosion, probably similar to the one that had ripped through Blaine’s lower torso and legs, could be heard. There were no screams that came afterward, and Blaine wasn’t sure if that was a good sign or a bad one.
“Zero!” Hallow was yelling, standing right over him now. “Zero! Turn it off! I can’t… you’re not letting me heal you.” Hallow was crying, which was understandable. This fight was going badly, the gang had far more Supers and stolen weaponry than their intel had let on. Civilians were already killed; a Hero would probably die before it was all over. Blaine realized that there was a very good chance that Hero could be him, and was surprised at how unbothered by the idea he was.
“Damn you, Zero, turn off your power!” Hallow’s hands were wrapped around Blaine’s shoulder, squeezing hard. It probably would have hurt, if Blaine could feel them. If he could feel anything. Hallow was clearly upset though, and that seemed wrong. Casper was his friend, his teammate, they’d been working together since finishing their internships. If it would make him feel better, Blaine would try to pull his power in.
The world seemed to be getting smaller, and that almost alarmed Blaine until he realized that his eyes were simply closing. It was good, the sun was too bright anyway. Closing them would be better, and besides, he was so tired. A little rest, and then he could get back into the fray. After all this fighting, hadn’t he earned some rest?
As the world began to fall away, Blaine remembered that Hallow was still upset. Using what effort he could conjure, Blaine tried to turn off the power that always radiated around him. It took the last of his consciousness to try, and he had no idea if it worked. All he could hope was that Hallow would feel better.
He began to drift, but a noise penetrated the peaceful fog draping across his mind. It refused to fade away no matter how Blaine ignored it, instead growing stronger by the minute. At first, he thought it was more explosions, but the sound stayed too constant for that. Then he believed it was some sort of animal howling. That seemed closer, yet still off. Finally, as the sounds seemed to surround him on all sides, Blaine finally realized what it was: Screaming. A person screaming.
His own voice, screaming in tremendous pain.
Blaine’s eyes snapped open just as the pain hit him, a tidal wave of horror so great that he nearly blacked out again. His only relief came from the fact that no sooner had it struck than it began to fade. Hallow’s hands were pressed against the exposed flesh of Blaine’s stomach where the explosion had shredded his supposedly unbreakable armor. The white-costumed Hero was still crying, but now the tears were nearly impossible to make out amidst the sweat pouring from his face. Hallow’s skin was red and his breathing shallow, but it wasn’t until the pain began to subside completely that he turned from his work. He didn’t look at Blaine; however, instead Hallow turned his eyes skyward.
“Thank you, Heavenly Father. Thank you for your mercy.” Only then did his own eyes train themselves on Blaine, who was scanning the area to see if there were about to take another attack. “As for you, I’m not sure if you actually heard me or your power turns off when you die. Either way, I thought you were lost for a moment there.”
“Glad as I am that’s not the case, should we be sitting in the open like this?” Blaine looked up and down the street where he’d collapsed, trying not to stare at the blood, muscle, and bones that had been his up until minutes prior. Hallow’s power could regenerate just about anything, but it didn’t make seeing one’s own organs any less unsettling.
“It’s fine. Less than a minute after you went down one of Shimmerpath’s doorways opened. Globe is handling the big fish while everyone else mops up the weaker ones. Black Hole took out half their forces in a single shot.”
And no doubt a fair bit of property and perhaps a civilian or two along with them. In a fight like this, loss was inevitable, but Blaine still hated when Black Hole had to use that power of his. It was only through kind fortune that such a destructive ability ended up in the hands of such a responsible man.
“Guess I should probably get off my ass and go help then.” Blaine began trying to pull himself up, but Hallow shoved him roughly back into the concrete.
“Like heck you are. Healing takes a toll, you know that as well as anyone else, and I just did a lot of healing on you. I don’t think I’ve ever had to pour so much energy into a single person. You’ll be lucky to stand up straight for the next few hours. Fighting is off the table. I’ve already asked Dispatch to send us some transportation.”
“Which was a bit unnecessary. I was standing right over there.” Blaine couldn’t see where the woman was pointing, nor where she was speaking from, but he knew the voice in an instant. Clarissa, or, in the field, Shimmerpath.
“You were on a building. I can’t yell that far,” Hallow replied.
“Never know until you try.” Shimmerpath leaned down and gently rested a hand on Blaine’s chest. “Now Zero, don’t move. I’m putting you down in a specific place.”
Before Blaine could mutter so much as a greeting, let alone ask what she meant, the portal opened under him. He fell all of two inches before landing on the soft, cushiony bed in his base’s infirmary. The portal above him vanished, and a new one on the wall appeared, through which Hallow and Shimmerpath stepped through.
“How’s he holding up?” Shimmerpath asked as Hallow hurried across the room. “Zero looked like hell earlier.”
“Zero can hear you just fine,” Blaine sighed.
“Should be okay, but given how close the call was I want to do a full physical to make sure.” Hallow’s nimble hands were unfastening Zero’s mask as he spoke, pulling the black reinforced material free with a single well-positioned tug. “Let’s look at those…”
Hallow’s eyes grew wide as his words trailed off, and across the room Shimmerpath gaped visibly. Blaine tried to keep thing in perspective as he watched them, reminding himself that even if there was some sort of scarring, it was better than being dead. But why would there be scarring? His head wasn’t where he’d gotten hit, after all.
“Is someone going to tell me what’s happening?”
“I would, if I had any idea.” Hallow reached over to the bedside table and plucked a mirror from its surface, handing it to Blaine. “I mean… I must have done this, right?”
Opening the mirror carefully, Blaine examined his unmasked reflection. Despite his fears, there was no scarring or abrasions present. His face looked perfectly normal, the same face he’d seen in the mirror every day of his life.
Except this was the face he’d been seeing five years earlier, just after internship. His mid-twenties had caused his jaw to widen and wrinkles to form at the top of his forehead, but all of that was gone. It was as though he was looking at a photo of himself rather than the current version.
Snapping the mirror shut, Blaine carefully set it down on the bed next to him and looked up at Hallow.
“We may need to do a re-evaluation on your power.”